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Gowdy v. Gowdy

September 16, 2004

[5] IN RE MARRIAGE OF DOUGLAS JOE GOWDY, PETITIONER-APPELLANT,
v.
ROBYN ANN GOWDY, N/K/A ROBYN ANN BOTTENS, RESPONDENT-APPELLEE.



[6] Appeal from the Circuit Court, of the 14th Judicial Circuit, Mercer County, Illinois, No. 97-D-50. Honorable James G. Conway, Judge, Presiding.

[7] The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Schmidt

[8]  The respondent, Robyn Ann Bottens, moved to enforce a divorce judgment against the petitioner, Douglas Joe Gowdy. The court ordered Douglas to: (1) pay $4,966 toward the college expenses of the parties' daughter, Dawn, (2) maintain Dawn as a named insured under a specific insurance policy, and (3) pay Robyn $300 in attorney fees. On appeal, Douglas argues that all three rulings are in error.

[9]  Although Robyn has failed to file an appellee's brief, we reach the merits of the appeal pursuant to the guidelines expressed in First Capitol Mortgage Corp. v. Talandis Construction Corp., 63 Ill. 2d 128, 345 N.E.2d 493 (1976). We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for further proceedings.

[10]   I. FACTS

[11]   The parties were divorced on October 6, 1997. The judgment order incorporated a separation agreement containing two relevant requirements. First, the parties were each required to "pay 10% of the college expenses incurred by their children, Elizabeth Ann Gowdy and Dawn Renea Gowdy." Second, Douglas was required to "keep [Dawn] insured under a policy of medical and hospitalization insurance."

[12]   On May 13, 2003, Robyn filed a motion seeking both enforcement of the above two provisions, as well as attorney fees. Specifically, Robyn sought to have Douglas pay $4,966, or 10% of the $49,660 in total costs for Dawn's previous two years at Augustana College. In response, Douglas contended that the plain language of the judgment of dissolution required him to pay only 10% of "college expenses incurred." Therefore, Douglas deducted grants and scholarships Dawn received--but would not have to repay--from the $49,660 total in determining his obligation. Douglas calculated that his obligation was therefore only $2,300, or 10% of the $23,000 in college expenses not covered by scholarships and grants.

[13]   Robyn also sought to have Douglas maintain insurance for Dawn. Douglas testified at a hearing on the motion that he had been maintaining Dawn as a named insured under a policy offered by his new wife's employer, John Deere & Company. Douglas indicated that he terminated Dawn from that policy after discussions with a company insurance representative led him to believe that she was ineligible.

[14]   The circuit court disposed of these issues in two separate orders. On July 16, 2003, the court ordered Douglas to pay the full $4,966 toward Dawn's prior college expenses, with credit for a $2,300 payment he made to Augustana College sometime between May 21, 2003, and July 16, 2003. That order also awarded Robyn $300 in attorney fees. On July 30, 2003, the court ordered Douglas to maintain Dawn as a named insured under the "John Deere Health & Hospitalization Plan."

[15]   Douglas filed a timely posttrial motion challenging both of these orders. At the hearing on this motion, Douglas also asked that the court take judicial notice of the fact that he had recently divorced his new wife. He therefore contended that it was impossible for him to maintain Dawn as an insured under the John Deere insurance policy. The court denied the motion and affirmed the obligations contained in its prior orders. Douglas appealed.

[16]   II. ANALYSIS

[17]   A. College Expenses

[18]   Douglas first challenges the circuit court's determination that the dissolution judgment required him to pay 10% of the full cost of Dawn's college expenses. Douglas contends that under the plain language of the judgment, he is only obligated to pay 10% of the college expenses not covered by scholarships and grants. We agree.

[19]   Douglas's argument questions the circuit court's interpretation of the requirements of the separation agreement incorporated into the judgment of dissolution. Rules of contract construction apply to the interpretation of such provisions. In re Marriage of Druss, 226 Ill. App. 3d 470, 589 N.E.2d 874 (1992). The provisions are construed in order to give effect to the intention of the parties, and where the terms are unambiguous, the parties' intent must be determined solely from the plain and obvious meaning of the language itself. In re Marriage of Holderrieth, 181 Ill. App. 3d 199, 536 N.E.2d 946 ...


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