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Selinger v. Selinger

July 28, 2004


Appeal from Circuit Court of Sangamon County. No. 01D896. Honorable Steven H. Nardulli, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Knecht


In October 2001, petitioner, Pamela M. Selinger, filed a petition for dissolution of her marriage to respondent, Thomas M. Selinger. The trial court granted the dissolution and entered the final judgment on February 21, 2003. Pamela appeals, arguing the trial court abused its discretion by (1) purporting to terminate her maintenance award on August 31, 2005, without the possibility of review or extension, (2) awarding her just $400 per month in non-reviewable maintenance, and (3) denying her an award of attorney fees and not providing her with a hearing on her motion for contribution to attorney fees. We affirm in part as modified and reverse in part.


The parties married in 1978. Two children were born, Justin in 1981 and Garret in 1987. When the dissolution proceedings began, Pamela was 45 years old and Thomas was 46. Justin had reached his majority, and the custody order granted Pamela custody of Garret.

Thomas was employed as the director of legislative and public affairs for Central Illinois Light Company (CILCO). The trial court found Thomas's gross monthly income to be $7,115.38, with a base salary of $92,500 per year. In addition, the last two years, Thomas had received bonuses of different amounts, and the trial court averaged them for an annual bonus of $8,250 per year. Thomas was also employed as an alderman for the City of Springfield. In that capacity he earns an additional $11,735.88 per year.

Thomas also received a significant amount of money for expenses incurred in his job as a lobbyist, such as mileage, meals, entertainment, and lodging. Most of this was direct reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenditures necessary for Thomas's employment. The mileage reimbursement, made according to Internal Revenue Service guidelines, was greater than required to operate his vehicle. Because Thomas drives a 10-year-old van with high mileage that is paid for, the trial court found the extra amount in mileage was intended by the Internal Revenue Service to be used for replacement of the vehicle. Thomas was currently using the extra-mileage funds for his children's education expenses, but the court noted he would have to pay for a replacement vehicle in the near future and would need to use those funds for that purpose. Thus, the court did not consider the mileage reimbursements as gross income to Thomas.

Although the trial court did not make a specific finding as to Pamela's gross income, the evidence indicated she was a registered nurse and received $36,870 per year in 2002 as a nurse recruiter for a local hospital.

Thomas was ordered to pay $1,267-per-month child support beginning the month the marital home was sold. He was also ordered to pay $4,560 for tuition and fees per year for Garret to finish his education at the parochial high school he was already attending.

The parties agreed to sell their $180,000 home and split the proceeds evenly. It was still for sale at the time of trial. The parties also agreed that, during the pendency of the dissolution proceedings and until the marital house sold, they would split the expenses involved in the upkeep of the home, with Thomas paying the greater share. Pamela and Garret continued to live in the home. Thomas also paid many of Pamela's bills for other living expenses, such as food and clothing, during the pendency of the dissolution proceedings. The trial court ordered the parties to continue to handle their finances as they had since their separation until the closing of the sale of the marital residence.

The trial court divided the marital estate virtually evenly with Thomas receiving a net amount of $68,990.50 and Pamela receiving a net amount of $69,647.50. After both mortgages and the accrued real estate taxes were paid, the parties would each net approximately $29,932.50 on the sale of the marital home, before the realtor's commission, assuming it sold for $180,000. The remainder of the assets of the marital estate was mostly in retirement accounts and pension benefits, which the court split. No evidence showed any non-marital property held by either party.

Pamela was awarded $400 per month in maintenance commencing the first month after the closing on the sale of the marital residence and continuing until August 31, 2005, at which time the trial court ordered it would terminate without the possibility of extension. Each party was ordered to pay his or her own attorney fees. This appeal followed.


Pamela challenges the maintenance award, arguing (1) the amount of the award was too low in light of her expenses and the standard of living established during the marriage; and (2) the limited duration of the award, particularly without review, was in error, not only in light of the standard of living established during the marriage, but also due to large disparity in income levels between Thomas and herself and the continued disparity in the potential for future earnings. She also contests the denial of her request for an attorney-fee award.

A. Maintenance Award

The propriety of a maintenance award as well as the amount and duration of the award are matters that lie in the sound discretion of the trial court, and its decision will not be disturbed absent an abuse of discretion. In re Marriage of Cheger, 213 Ill. App. 3d 371, 378, 571 N.E.2d 1135, 1140 (1991). An award of maintenance is governed by section 504 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (Dissolution Act) (750 ILCS 5/504 (West 2002)). Subparagraph (a) of section 504 sets forth the factors to be considered by the trial court when considering an award of maintenance. These are as follows:

"(1) the income and property of each party, including marital property apportioned and non[]marital property assigned to the party seeking maintenance;

(2) the needs of each party;

(3) the present and future earning capacity of each party;

(4) any impairment of the present and future earning capacity of the party seeking maintenance due to that party devoting time to domestic duties or having foregone or delayed education, training, employment, or career opportunities due to the marriage;

(5) the time necessary to enable the party seeking maintenance to acquire appro-priate education, training, and employment ***;

(6) the standard of living established during the marriage;

(7) the duration of the marriage;

(8) the age and the physical and emotional condition ...

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