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12/10/87 In Re Marriage of Shirley Steichen

December 10, 1987



and CRAIG STEICHEN, Respondent-Appellant

517 N.E.2d 645, 163 Ill. App. 3d 1074, 115 Ill. Dec. 234 1987.IL.1819

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County; the Hon. Michael R. Galasso, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE INGLIS delivered the opinion of the court. LINDBERG, P.J., and UNVERZAGT, J., concur.


Respondent, Craig Steichen, appeals from the order of the circuit court denying his motion to vacate a judgment for dissolution of marriage. Respondent contends that the court (1) abused its discretion when it failed to vacate the judgment of dissolution since that judgment incorporated a settlement agreement that respondent had agreed to under duress; (2) improperly entered a final dissolution order which materially altered the prior oral settlement agreement; and (3) abused its discretion when it granted a child support award in excess of the statutory guidelines. Respondent further maintains that the dissolution order requires reversal since the record on appeal lacks a transcript which demonstrates that grounds for dissolution were ever proved at a hearing. For the reasons set forth below we affirm.

Respondent and petitioner, Shirley Steichen, were married on November 13, 1982, and produced one child, Matthew, born December 26, 1983. Petitioner filed her petition for dissolution of marriage on April 18, 1985. In his answer, respondent sought dismissal of the petition, or, in the alternative, custody of Matthew. In addition, both parties petitioned for temporary custody and child support. The court subsequently entered an agreed order dividing Matthew's time evenly between the parties. That order further provided that respondent pay $50 per week baby-sitting expenses, and $100 per month for child support. The custody issue was reserved for trial.

On February 13, 1986, the trial court entered an order finding respondent guilty of extreme and repeated mental cruelty toward petitioner. The court's order set a future hearing date for all remaining issues. Prior to the hearing, the parties submitted to two psychological evaluations with regard to child custody. Dr. Adrienne Allert recommended joint custody. However, Dr. Clyde Kelly recommended that petitioner retain custody and respondent be allowed liberal visitation rights.

Both parties appeared for hearing on September 9, 1986. Petitioner's counsel noted that the issue of grounds had previously been decided and promised to provide the court with a transcript of those proceedings. Counsel stated that she would be proceeding only on the issues of custody, visitation, real property, and personal property. At the commencement of the hearing, the court noted that after conference both parties had agreed to an oral settlement regarding the Disposition of all remaining issues. The court further noted that although the parties were not satisfied with each and every term of the agreement, they were willing to proceed on the basis of that agreement.

Petitioner subsequently testified that the parties had reached a settlement. Petitioner stated that the terms of the agreement provided that (1) petitioner would retain custody of Matthew; (2) respondent would be granted liberal visitation; (3) respondent would be given the option to purchase petitioner's interest in a townhouse; and (4) respondent would pay petitioner $400 per month child support until Matthew reached school age, when the amount would be reduced to the statutory 20% of his net salary. Petitioner testified that she accepted the agreement and believed that it was fair and equitable.

Respondent was then called as a witness and testified that the terms of the agreement as described by petitioner were acceptable to him. Respondent had previously told the court that the terms were not agreeable to him, but changed his position after the court advised him that he could have a trial. Respondent further testified that he was not under any coercion or undue pressure to enter into the agreement. However, when asked if he thought the agreement was fair and equitable, the following colloquy took place:

"Q. And this settlement agreement then is a -- do you feel it's ...

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