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In re Marriage of Sassano

March 13, 2003


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County. No. 99--D--1061 Honorable John G. Radosevich, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Byrne

Respondent, Vincent Allen Sassano, appeals from the circuit court's orders (1) denying his petition to modify his unallocated child support and maintenance obligation to petitioner, Ilyse Sassano, and (2) finding that he failed to pay petitioner pursuant to the parties' marital settlement agreement. We affirm.


The parties' marriage was dissolved on June 7, 2000, and the trial court entered a judgment incorporating a settlement agreement setting respondent's obligation to pay petitioner $4,632 per month. The monthly obligation included $3,176 for unallocated child support and maintenance, $800 for a debit account for the parties' two minor children, and $656 for petitioner's predicted federal and state tax liability. The agreement did not specify respondent's income at the time of the dissolution.

The parties agreed to joint custody, and petitioner was designated as the "residential parent." They also agreed to meet annually to discuss the children's changing needs. The agreement further provides in relevant part:

"Although [the parties] have conducted some informal discovery, [they] have decided to enter into this Marital Settlement Agreement without such formal discovery and without formal investigation of the assets, liabilities, of their joint or mutual assets, of his or her own assets, and of the assets of the other party to enter into this Marital Settlement Agreement. They each acknowledge that they are entering into this Marital Settlement Agreement despite the known and unknown assets, income, or liabilities of the other. Each enters this Agreement willingly and waives any right, title, claim, or interest that she or he may have based on lack of disclosure by the other or insufficient knowledge of the assets or income of the other.

The amount that [respondent] pays [petitioner] as unallocated maintenance and support from June 10, 2000, to September 1, 2004, shall not terminate upon either [petitioner's] remarriage or cohabitation on a continuing conjugal basis, although it shall terminate upon either her death or [respondent's] death. Neither shall the support be modifiable for any reason during that period, and, if [petitioner] seeks, before 9/1/04, to modify support or child support, then this unallocated maintenance and support shall automatically terminate as of the date of her filing any petition for modification or the like, and child support shall be set at that time at the then statutory amount for the number of children then residing primarily with [petitioner]. If not otherwise terminated according to this paragraph, maintenance terminates completely with the final payment of unallocated maintenance and support on 9/1/04."

At the prove-up hearing, respondent testified that he knew, if the matter went to trial, a judge would likely order him to pay petitioner less than he was agreeing to pay under the settlement. Respondent asserted that he was currently self-employed and had "made a full disclosure of all the assets [he] acquired during the marriage," but he did not specify his current salary. The trial court then entered the judgment adopting the settlement agreement.

On November 8, 2000, five months after the dissolution, respondent filed a petition to modify support pursuant to section 510(a) of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (Marriage Act) (750 ILCS 5/510(a) (West 2000)). Respondent alleged that one of his clients had ended his employment, which created a substantial change in circumstances. Petitioner then filed two petitions for rules to show cause, alleging that respondent had failed to fund the debit account and pay support.

In April 2001, the court conducted a hearing on the petitions. Respondent testified that, from January to May 2000, he worked only as a computer consultant for a company called Christianity Today. However, on May 15, 2000, respondent also began serving as the chief technology officer of, a computer software company. Respondent's second job increased his projected annual gross income from approximately $80,000 to $202,000. On June 7, 2000, the marriage was dissolved pursuant to the marital settlement agreement in which respondent did not disclose the additional income.

Respondent further testified that he remarried on September 20, 2000, and that his new wife earned nearly $100,000 per year. On October 15, 2000, terminated respondent's employment after retaining another company to perform respondent's duties. Soon thereafter, respondent began working exclusively for Christianity Today as the director of information technology, and his salary at the time of the hearing was $70,000. Around the time of his employment change, respondent learned that he owed an additional $50,000 in past-due taxes.

On cross-examination, respondent admitted that he and petitioner personally negotiated some of the terms of the marital settlement agreement in May 2000, but he denied that he stated during the negotiations that he earned only $80,000 annually. However, he admitted that he did not disclose his full employment to petitioner, any of her representatives, his attorney, or the court before the marriage was dissolved. Respondent's counsel testified that he was unaware of respondent's additional income before the dissolution.

Todd McMeen, the chief executive officer of, testified that he and respondent negotiated for two to three months before respondent began his employment on May 15, 2000. McMeen hired respondent on a month-to-month basis with the expectation that it would be a "long-term" relationship because "there was plenty of work to go around." However, respondent was terminated on October 15, 2000, because his services were no longer needed.

Over respondent's objection, the trial court admitted a February 2, 2000, letter from respondent's counsel to petitioner's counsel, stating that respondent expected to earn only $80,000 in the year 2000. The court also admitted a May 2, 2000, letter from respondent's counsel to petitioner's counsel, indicating that respondent and petitioner had been personally negotiating a settlement during the final two weeks of April 2000. Petitioner then ...

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