APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIRST DISTRICT, SIXTH DIVISION
EDWARD MATEJA, Respondent-Appellant
540 N.E.2d 406, 183 Ill. App. 3d 759, 132 Ill. Dec. 666 1989.IL.765
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. James L. Harris, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE McNAMARA delivered the opinion of the court. EGAN, P.J., and LaPORTA, J., concur.
DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE MCNAMARA
Edward Mateja (the husband) appeals from a trial court order denying his petition to terminate maintenance paid to petitioner Jeanette Mateja (the wife). He contends that the maintenance agreement incorporated in the judgment for dissolution of marriage was modifiable.
On June 4, 1981, a judgment for dissolution of marriage was entered. It included a marital settlement agreement which provided that the husband would pay 35% of his net income, with a minimum of $550 per month, as support for the wife and their minor child until the child reached age 18, when the payments would equal 18% of his net income from all sources with a minimum of $300 per month until the wife remarried. The agreement stated that Jeanette was "permitted to earn up to and including the sum of $13,000 per year gross before her earnings shall have an effect upon [husband's] obligation for support of maintenance of either [wife] or the minor child." The agreement also stated: "The parties further agree that the terms of the Agreement shall be non-modifiable."
At the proveup hearing, the husband testified that he understood that he had the right to seek a modification of the agreement if there was a material change of circumstances on the part of either party.
On January 13, 1986, the husband filed a petition to terminate maintenance. The wife's motion to strike was denied. At an evidentiary hearing, the husband testified regarding his earnings. The wife testified that she earned $1,190 in 1986; $4,180 in 1985; $4,186 in 1984; and nothing in 1983. She also testified about her employment history.
On October 29, 1987, the trial court denied the petition to terminate maintenance after finding the parties expressly intended that the agreement was non-modifiable unless petitioner earned over $13,000 per year, remarried or died.
The husband contends that the trial court erred in finding as a matter of law that the marital settlement agreement was nonmodifiable. Section 502(f) of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act provides that except for terms concerning the support, custody or visitation of children, the judgment may expressly preclude or limit modification of the terms if the agreement so provides. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 40, par. 502(f).) Such agreements are interpreted according to the same principles of construction applied to other contracts. Ingrassia v. Ingrassia (1987), 156 Ill. App. 3d 483, 509 N.E.2d 729.
The contract must expressly state the parties' intent to limit modification to specific circumstances. (In re Marriage of Chalkley (1981), 99 Ill. App. 3d 478, 426 N.E.2d 237.) Where the judgment expressly precludes or limits, by clear and precise language, any modification, the trial court must give effect to that expression of the parties' intentions. In re Marriage of McFarlane (1987), 160 Ill. App. 3d 721, 513 N.E.2d 1146; Simmons v. Simmons (1979), 77 Ill. App. 3d 740, 396 N.E.2d 631.
The husband maintains that by finding the agreement nonmodifiable, the court ignored the provision permitting the wife to earn up to $13,000 before he can seek a modification. The husband urges that these are inconsistent provisions and thus the language on nonmodifiability does not apply to the specific ...