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January 22, 1998


Appeal from Circuit Court of Sangamon County. No. 95D967. Honorable Robert J. Eggers, Judge Presiding.

Honorable Rita B. Garman, J., Honorable Frederick S. Green, J. - Concur, Honorable Robert J. Steigmann, J. - Concur. Presiding Justice Garman delivered the opinion of the court.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Garman

PRESIDING JUSTICE GARMAN delivered the opinion of the court:

Petitioner Kay Bea Dunlap filed for divorce on grounds of adultery. Respondent John W. Dunlap's counterpetition alleged mental cruelty. The parties agreed to, and the trial court accepted, stipulated values and division of certain properties and the nonmarital nature of other properties. Kay's petition was granted and, in the absence of a complete agreement between the parties, the trial court entered judgment dividing their property and awarding Kay maintenance. Kay appeals both the property division and the maintenance award.


Kay and John were married in April 1971 in Peoria, Illinois. Kay was a widow with four children; John was a widower whose first wife and four daughters had been killed in an automobile accident. He had one surviving child. Kay and John each adopted the other's children; they had no children together.

Kay and John separated in May 1994. Kay filed a petition for dissolution of marriage in the circuit court of Sangamon County in November 1995 and, in December 1995, John responded, denying the allegations in Kay's petition and filing his own petition for dissolution. At a hearing on grounds in October 1996, the court found in favor of Kay, and a stipulation of the parties was filed containing, among other terms: an agreed value of $3,025 per acre for a 40-acre tract of marital farmland; an agreement that John would purchase Kay's share in the 40-acre tract for $60,500; and an agreement that another 27-acre tract was John's nonmarital property.

The trial court issued its opinion in February 1997 and entered judgment in April 1997. At the time of the entry of the judgment of dissolution of marriage, Kay was 53 years of age and John was 62. They had been married 26 years. This appeal followed.

The family lived for 22 1/2 years in a rural home that John inherited from his father several years after the marriage. The parties agree that the home is John's nonmarital property. Marital funds were used to pay the real estate taxes on the property and remodel and maintain it during the marriage.

John is employed at Bunn Capitol Company as sales manager and, at the time of the divorce, was earning approximately $120,000 per year. In addition, the parties farmed approximately 70 acres for more than 20 years and operated a hog business for 12 years, until 1984.

Throughout the marriage, Kay was a homemaker and primary caretaker of the five-children. She did not work outside the home except for a brief period. She worked alongside John in the farming and hog operations. Kay also assisted John in his job by taking phone calls, running errands, filing, and hand-crafting gifts for his clients. In addition, she frequently acted as hostess when the couple entertained clients at their vacation home in Missouri.

For two years following the parties' separation, Kay did not seek work but spent a substantial period of time caring for a daughter who was ill and seeking counseling for herself and John for emotional problems relating to the breakup of the marriage. She also returned to the marital home for several weeks to assist John while he was recovering from knee replacement surgery. Late in 1995, Kay began to look for employment and continued her job search until April 1996. She had five interviews for jobs paying $5 to $6 per hour, but did not receive any offers. She accepted a series of temporary, part-time positions paying $6 per hour. At the time of the hearing, she was working three hours per day for a bank, earning $8 per hour.

In April 1996, Kay began attending Robert Morris College, pursuing an associate degree in accounting. At the time of the hearing, she was taking classes two nights a week, working three hours a day, and had stopped applying for jobs.

The portions of the trial court judgment relevant to this appeal are (1) the award of $1,500 per month as maintenance to Kay, until such time as John retires from his current employment; (2) approval of the parties' stipulation with regard to undisputed division of martial property; (3) calculation of the value of the marital estate at approximately $955,000 and the award of 55% to John and 45% to Kay; (4) the decision of the court not to reimburse the marital estate for alleged improvements to the residence or the value of labor expended by the parties; (5) reimbursement of $9,000 to the marital estate for structures built on John's nonmarital property; (6) allocation of the entire 1995 bean crop as John's nonmarital property; and (7) allocation of more than one-half of the 1996 crop to John as his nonmarital property. The judgment made no mention of marital debts.


A. Award of Maintenance

The trial court awarded Kay $1,500 per month in maintenance until John's retirement, at which time she will receive one-half the retirement benefit accrued during the marriage. The trial court stated:

"In making this maintenance award, the Court has considered all statutory factors ***. *** Wife has substantial marital and non-marital property available to her and in addition thereto has the ability to contribute to her own support by working."

The propriety, amount, and duration of a maintenance award lie within the sound discretion of the trial court and will not be disturbed on appeal absent an abuse of discretion. In re Marriage of Werries, 247 Ill. App. 3d 639, 652, 616 N.E.2d 1379, 1390, 186 Ill. Dec. 747 (1993). Section 504 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (Act) (750 ILCS 5/504 (West 1996)) requires the trial court to consider all relevant factors, but does not require that they be "given equal weight, so long as the balance struck by the court is reasonable under the circumstances." In re Marriage of Miller, 231 Ill. App. 3d 480, 485, 595 N.E.2d 1349, 1353, 172 Ill. Dec. 679 (1992).

John currently earns about $120,000 per year and has farm income of about $10,000 per year. Kay works part-time and earns $6,240 per year. Under the 55% to 45% property division, John received $525,093.18 in marital property and Kay received $429,621.69. John's nonmarital assets are valued at $217,534 and Kay's at $121,345.32. In terms of total assets, Kay's combined marital and nonmarital property ($550,966) is 74% of John's ($742,627). The parties' stipulation included an opinion from a certified financial planner that they could expect to receive a minimum rate of return of 6.8% on their investments.

Kay claims monthly expenses of $3,290, including taxes. She also has taken out a student loan for $6,250 and estimates that she will incur $7,000 in additional student loan debt. John's monthly expenses are $3,697. He owns his own home and, thus, has no rent or mortgage payment. Substantial portions of the amounts he listed for telephone expense and gas, oil, and vehicle repair are reimbursed to him by his employer.

Kay argues that, taking into account the parties' income and nonmarital property and the 55% to 45% division of the marital property, she will not be able to maintain her predivorce standard of living. John argues that Kay has not demonstrated that her standard of living has deteriorated as a result of the divorce. However, before their separation, John and Kay lived in a rural older home, without rent or mortgage expense. They owned a vacation home in the Ozarks worth over $250,000. They had never financed a car because they had always been able to pay cash. In the several years immediately preceding their separation, they dined out most of the time. Kay's lifestyle during the marriage allowed her to operate a craft business out of their home, making ceramic dolls, and it was apparently not a concern that the craft business was a losing proposition. Although no part of the testimony in this case can be ...

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