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10/30/87 In Re Marriage of Rosemary Chapman

October 30, 1987



and ARNOLD CHAPMAN, Respondent-Appellant

515 N.E.2d 424, 162 Ill. App. 3d 308, 113 Ill. Dec. 615 1987.IL.1617

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County; the Hon. Terrence J. Brady, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE HOPF delivered the opinion of the court. LINDBERG, P.J., and WOODWARD, J., concur.


Respondent, Arnold Chapman, appeals from the denial of his motion to vacate certain property settlement provisions of a judgment for dissolution of his marriage to petitioner, Rosemary Chapman. Arnold contends that the trial court erred by disposing of his motion without benefit of an evidentiary hearing and by failing to find that the property agreement is unconscionable. We affirm.

The petition for dissolution of marriage was filed by Rosemary on May 4, 1984. The record reflects that between the date of filing and April 1986, when trial was scheduled, the parties were in court numerous times on petitions for rules to show cause, various petitions regarding custody and visitation of the couple's minor children, and a variety of motions requesting either restriction of the parties' activities or imposition of duties or sanctions. The court appointed a sequestrator who engaged in extensive discovery, investigation, and depositions in order to determine the extent and location of the assets in the marital estate. The parties also did extensive discovery.

Trial was set to begin on April 7, 1986. Arnold states in his brief that prior to the start of the trial "the court attempted to mediate a settlement, but was unsuccessful." According to Rosemary's brief, "[the] court participated in extensive settlement negotiations with opposing Counsel, who were in immediate and direct, next room, consultation with the parties over the first two days of the dates set for trial." On April 9 the court announced on the record that the matter was up for trial. The Judge explained that during the preceding few days there had been a series of negotiations which had now broken down. According to the rest of the court's remarks, at the commencement of trial counsel for both parties announced that their clients had worked out a settlement and resolution of the issues. The case proceeded to prove-up of all matters.

Arnold testified that he understood the terms of the settlement agreement as they were recited by counsel and noted that, although he was not satisfied with it, he was willing to be bound by the agreement. He stated that he wished to start a new life and be done with the divorce. In response to direct questioning by the court, Arnold indicated that if the court accepted the settlement, he would agree to be bound by its terms.

Testimony by both Arnold and Rosemary indicated a disagreement as to the amount and source of the marital estate. Rosemary contended that the marital assets totaled somewhere between $1 million and $1.2 million, while Arnold placed them in the neighborhood of $600,000. Arnold also claimed that a good portion of the marital estate came from nonmarital assets.

The court orally granted the dissolution of marriage and, after making a finding that the settlement agreement did not appear to be unconscionable, accepted the provisions of the agreement. Judgment for dissolution was entered on May 21, 1986, over an objection by Arnold. The judgment recited that the parties and the court had participated in excess of two days of negotiation and had reached agreement on all issues. The terms of the settlement agreement were fully set forth in the judgment order.

On June 19, 1986, Arnold presented a motion to vacate the property settlement portion of the judgment for dissolution and to withdraw proofs. An amended motion was offered on July 16, 1986. According to the motion the settlement had been predicated upon the trial brief submitted by petitioner which alleged assets of $698,602. Respondent charged that the sections of the judgment order he wished to have vacated were unconscionable, oppressive, and had been predicated upon a number of mistakes of fact and misrepresentations made by Rosemary. The motion also asserted that Rosemary had threatened Arnold with disclosure of information to the Internal Revenue Service and obstruction of his visitation rights if he refused to enter into the agreement. These threats supposedly were made after settlement negotiations broke down just before trial was to begin and out of hearing of the court and counsel.

The court allowed the filing of Arnold's amended motion, and Arnold's counsel requested an evidentiary hearing on the motion. The court denied that request and then denied the motion to vacate. In a later dialogue with counsel the court made it clear that it had denied both the original and amended motions to vacate as well as requests for evidentiary hearings relative to both motions. As a basis for denial, the Judge explained that he had read the amended motion to vacate and noted that it was verified. He further said that he had considered the transcript of the prove-up and the history and chronology of the proceedings. In his words: "I have an excellent memory of the prove-up and what it took to get the parties to that stage and these proceedings and I denied an opportunity to conduct an evidentiary hearing on what is designated on the face of the pleading as an amended motion to vacate. It is verified." The Judge recalled that he had heard Arnold testify as to his understanding of the terms of the agreement and that he had found that both Arnold and Rosemary were intelligent and that they understood the full scope of the agreement terms. In his Discussion of the matter of attorney fees, the Judge observed that he had always felt that Arnold was highly intelligent on financial affairs as well as day-to-day living. Finally, ...

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