Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 12th Judicial Circuit, Will County, Illinois. No. 94--D--11554. Honorable Ludwig J. Kuhar, Judge Presiding.
As Corrected October 23, 1996. Released for Publication October 23, 1996.
Honorable Peg Breslin, Presiding Justice, Honorable Michael P. McCUSKEY, Justice, Honorable John F. Michela, Justice. Justice Michela delivered the opinion of the court: Breslin, P.j. and McCUSKEY, J., concur.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michela
JUSTICE MICHELA delivered the opinion of the court:
Petitioner, Yolanda Steadman (wife), appeals the denial of her motion to vacate a judgment authorizing the dissolution of her marriage to respondent, Jeffrey Steadman (husband). She sought to prevent the incorporation of an oral settlement agreement resolving disputed issues arising from the dissolution of her marriage into the final judgment entered by the circuit court of Will County on October 5, 1995. For the reasons set forth below, we hold that the trial court committed no abuse of its discretion when it approved the terms of the negotiated oral settlement agreement.
In August of 1994, the parties separated. Wife left the marital residence located in Bolingbrook and took the couple's three youngest sons with her to a summer home while husband remained in Bolingbrook with the two eldest sons. Husband remained employed as a hospital administrator, earning a salary of $150,000 and wife, who had not worked since their marriage in 1975, petitioned the court for maintenance and support. On November 2, 1994, the trial court ordered that husband pay $2,400 a month in unallocated family support. The trial court further ordered that husband retain temporary physical custody of the two eldest children while wife would retain temporary physical custody of the three youngest children.
Wife decided to relocate to Wixom, Michigan with the three youngest children and the record is unclear as to whether husband consented to this move. Nonetheless, wife and the three youngest children moved to Wixom, Michigan and on August 28, 1995, husband filed an emergency petition seeking to enjoin the permanent removal of the three youngest children to Michigan. A hearing on husband's petition was scheduled for September 1, 1995.
On September 1, 1995, wife, husband and respective counsel met in court and commenced two hours of negotiations in the hallway which formed the basis of the oral settlement agreement currently at issue. Instead of arguing the merits of husband's emergency petition to enjoin the removal of his children to Michigan, the parties and their counsel presented the terms of their oral settlement agreement to the trial court. During the course of this settlement hearing, both wife and husband agreed that the following terms comprised their agreement.
First, husband agreed to the removal of his three youngest children to Michigan subject to certain visitation terms. Second, husband agreed to pay $2,775 in unallocated support to wife for three years. The monthly support was deemed non-modifiable and non-reviewable and was taxable income to wife and a deductible expense to husband; however, wife would be able to claim the children as exemptions for federal and state income tax purposes. At the end of the three years, wife would cease to receive maintenance and, at that time, child support would be calculated using the guidelines enumerated in section 505(a)(1) of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (the Act). 750 ILCS 5/505(a)(1) (West 1994).
The terms of the property division provision left wife with a Florida condominium, a parcel of land in Colorado, a 1989 Yamaha motorscooter and a 1989 GMC van. Husband's share of the property was the marital home, vacation property in Kankakee County and a 1989 radian motorcycle. Additionally, wife and husband agreed that each would receive the bank accounts, securities and individual retirement accounts in his or her possession. Further, husband had a tax deferred annuity account through his employer which, at the time of the judgment of dissolution, had a present day cash value of $116,000. Husband and wife agreed that after paying attorney fees, repaying a loan obtained from borrowing against an insurance policy and paying interest penalties and taxes, the remainder would be divided equally between them.
At the hearing wife testified that her goal was to become self-sufficient and, to this end, she was currently enrolled in a three year program to become a real estate broker in Wixom, Michigan. At the settlement hearing, wife engaged in the following testimony with her attorney and with the trial court:
MR. KOZLOWSKI [Counsel for wife]: And that's the agreement we worked out today in the hall, and we will reduce it to writing with the joint custody [agreement], and you're satisfied with that?
THE WITNESS [Wife]: I have no choice.
THE COURT: Well, ma'am, I want you to understand that you do have a choice. We can sit down right now and have a formal hearing and the parties can present evidence on both sides and call any ...