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12/22/87 In Re Marriage of Sheridan Smith

December 22, 1987



DIXIE LEE SMITH, Respondent-Appellant

518 N.E.2d 450, 164 Ill. App. 3d 1011, 115 Ill. Dec. 925 1987.IL.1902

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Allen Rosin, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE HARTMAN delivered the opinion of the court. SCARIANO, P.J., and STAMOS, J., concur.


Respondent Dixie Lee Smith (Lee) appeals from orders entering a supplemental judgment of dissolution of marriage and denying her motion to vacate that judgment. The issues to be reviewed on appeal are whether the circuit court erred: (1) in entering the supplemental judgment of dissolution of marriage; (2) in denying Lee's motion to vacate the supplemental judgment and the order entering that judgment; and (3) in barring evidence, at the hearing on Lee's motion to vacate, concerning the parties' past employment, their relative economic contributions to the marriage, and petitioner's financial situation after the parties concluded an oral settlement agreement.

Petitioner, Sheridan Smith (Sheridan), and Lee, married on August 4, 1972, had two children: Sheridan Grant, born in 1976; and Jordan Lee, born in 1978. On February 9, 1982, when Sheridan was a medical school student and Lee was unemployed, Sheridan filed a petition for dissolution of marriage. By agreed order entered March 3, 1982, Lee was given custody of the children and awarded 40% of Sheridan's income for support. Custody was transferred to Sheridan in August 1984, and the children remained with Sheridan for the duration of the dissolution proceedings.

Lee underwent surgery in July 1985 to replace her left hip with an artificial joint; her right hip joint was replaced in December 1985. The circuit court ordered Sheridan to assume payment of the premiums on Lee's medical insurance at $82 per month, and to pay up to $50 per month for Lee's prescriptions not covered by insurance. Sheridan also was ordered, on October 31, 1985, to increase his monthly support payments to $450. Lee continued to receive support payments at this rate through the termination of the dissolution proceedings.

On September 9, 1985, Sheridan moved the circuit court for an immediate prove up and entry of judgment of dissolution of marriage, alleging that: his marriage to Lee had suffered an "irretrievable breakdown"; the woman with whom Sheridan lived, Janice Craig (Janice), was pregnant; and he wished to marry Janice and ensure that their child would be legitimate at birth. Sheridan requested a judgment dissolving the marriage and delaying all other pertinent issues for further consideration. The circuit court entered a bifurcated judgment of dissolution of marriage on September 10, 1985, and reserved consideration of maintenance, support, attorney fees, custody, visitation, and property division for trial.

Between September 10, 1985, and May 14, 1986, the date scheduled for trial, negotiations continued between the parties and their counsel in an effort to resolve issues not disposed of by the bifurcated judgment. Lee and Evan Mammas, her then attorney, however, disagree as to the nature of these negotiations and their own conversations concerning the dissolution proceedings.

On July 12, 1985, Charles Fleck (Fleck), Sheridan's attorney, mailed a written settlement proposal to Mammas. Lee testified she never saw the document, but admitted discussing the proposed terms, which she found unacceptable, with Mammas by phone. Mammas, too, believed the proposal was inadequate and drafted a counterproposal which he discussed with Lee and sent to Fleck in early August 1985. The ultimate Disposition of the counterproposal is not clear.

By May 14, 1986, custody and visitation rights were authorized in a separate, written agreement, and the parties orally agreed to the following financial settlement: Sheridan would pay Lee $550 per month as maintenance for one year upon entry of judgment; all maintenance payments would cease at the end of the 12-month period; Lee would also receive $2,500 upon entry of judgment and another $2,500 on January 2, 1987; the maintenance payments were nonmodifiable; all personal property in the parties' possession at the time of their separation would remain in their possession; the parties would be responsible for their own legal fees.

In the ensuing prove up, Sheridan testified that no marital property remained to be divided. Sheridan and Lee stated that they understood and agreed to the terms of the oral settlement agreement. Lee further averred that, although currently unemployed, she believed she could secure employment and be self-supporting in the future, provided her physical rehabilitation from the hip operations "goes O.K." As to the financial settlement, Lee stated: the settlement had been the subject of several Discussions between the parties; she agreed to be bound by the settlement terms; she was not "forced into" the agreement by Sheridan, the court, or attorneys for either party; she was satisfied with the settlement terms and Mammas' representation of her in ...

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