Appeal from the Circuit Court Cook County 09 D 10271 and Honorable Marya Nega, Judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice R. E. Gordon
JUSTICE R. E. GORDON delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. JUSTICES CAHILL and McBRIDE concurred in the judgment and opinion.
The parties, Margaret and Tim Mather, were married in Du Page County on June 18, 1988. They resided in a home in Naperville in Du Page County until March 1, 2009, when Tim moved out and rented a two-bedroom apartment in Lisle, which is also in Du Page County. Tim still leases the Lisle apartment, which is approximately two miles from the family home. Two children were born to the parties, in 1993 and 1996, respectively.
On October 17, 2009, Tim leased a studio apartment in Chicago, where
he works. On November 5, 2009, Tim filed a petition for dissolution of
marriage in Cook County. He is not seeking custody of his two
children, who reside in Du Page County. On January 25, 2010, Margaret
moved to transfer the case to Du Page County pursuant to section 2-104
of the Illinos Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-104 (West 2008)).
After hearing the arguments of the
parties, the trial court granted Margaret's motion to
transfer venue to Du Page County. On May 4, 2010, Margaret filed a
motion to dismiss the petition pursuant to the doctrine of forum non
conveniens. After hearing the arguments of the parties, the trial
court granted Margaret's motion on June 22, 2010, finding that Du Page
County is the more appropriate forum, and denied Tim's motion to
reconsider on July 13, 2010. This interlocutory appeal followed. For
the reasons discussed below, we cannot find that the trial court
abused its discretion by granting Margaret's motion to dismiss on
forum non conveniens grounds.
The parties testified at the hearing on the motion to dismiss. Margaret testified that she lives in Du Page County, works as a part-time school teacher in Du Page, and that her friends, neighbors, doctors for her and her children, are all in Du Page County. She lives 22 minutes from the Du Page County courthouse in Wheaton, and it takes an hour and 45 minutes to arrive at the Daley Center in Chicago from her home. Margaret is responsible for preparing and driving the children to school each morning. The children also attend various activities in Du Page County.
Margaret's attorney represented that he had an office in Du Page County and did not charge for travel time. After the motion to dismiss for forum non conveniens was granted, Margaret's attorney indicated he would not be representing her in Du Page County. However, the trial court stated on Tim's motion to reconsider that the court "never considered who the respective lawyers were [or] what their billing rates were."
Margaret completed a co-parenting class in Du Page County because "Tim had informed [her] that to get divorced in Du Page County, [she] had to take this class and [she] did."
Margaret claims she did not know of Tim's Chicago apartment until the day before the hearing on the venue motion. Margaret claims that all of the parties' marital property and all the potential witnesses are in Du Page County. The couple maintained a joint bank account at Chase Bank and Margaret uses a branch near her house in Du Page County. Margaret testified that Du Page County presented a more convenient forum in which to litigate this matter.
Tim testified that he uses his two-bedroom apartment in Lisle to exercise parenting time with his children, ages 16 and 13. He is currently seeking visitation only every other weekend and alternating holidays. In addition, he may seek some additional time in the summer. Tim is the primary breadwinner in the family. He is employed as the managing principal chief technology officer for PMA Consultants, a company based in Detroit, Michigan, but Tim's office is located at 333 West Wacker Drive in Chicago. Tim currently resides at 1140 North LaSalle Street in Chicago. Tim travels extensively -- during 2009, he traveled in excess of 75,000 miles. He banks at Chase Bank and works from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., five days a week. Tim testified that it would be a hardship for him to travel to Du Page County to litigate, because he would not be compensated for his travel time which would cause him economic harm and productivity.
Tim testified that the parties have retained lawyers in Chicago*fn1 and the costs of the litigation would be more for the lawyers to travel to Du Page County. Since moving out of the marital residence, Tim has his mail delivered to his apartment in Lisle. He maintains his vehicle registration at the Lisle address, and his 2009 federal W-2 tax form stated that he resided at the Lisle address.
Prior to the filing of his petition for dissolution, the parties worked with a Du Page County based mediator in an attempt to resolve their differences, and Tim requested that he be billed at the Lisle address. Tim claims that it would be inconvenient for him to attend court in Du Page County and that Margaret would not experience any "negative financial impact" if she were required to travel to Cook County for court appearances.
In the trial court's decision, the court explained:
"The parties lived in Du Page when they were married. The marital residence is in Du Page. The children live in Du Page. Mother still lives in Du Page. It's true the father no longer -- has testified previously and I still believe it's true that his primary residence is on LaSalle Street here in Chicago and he maintains for convenient purposes only like a drop-off apartment where he meets with his kids when he has visitation to make it more convenient to have that visitation.
Father's employer has an office here in Chicago, has its main offices in another state. The fact of the matter is I don't know if custody is an issue or not. There is no way for this court to know it, but the facts are very clear that everything involved in this case has a site in Du Page County ...