Appeal from Circuit Court of Champaign County and No. 00D719 Honorable Arnold F. Blockman, Judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Turner
JUSTICE TURNER delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justice Pope concurred in the judgment and opinion.
Justice Appleton specially concurred in the judgment, with opinion.
¶ 1 In the dissolution-of-marriage proceedings of petitioner, Kenneth W. Mathis, and respondent, Terri D. Mathis, the Champaign County circuit court certified the following question for interlocutory review pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 308 (eff. Feb. 26, 2010):
"In a bifurcated dissolution proceeding, when a grounds judgment has been entered, and when there is a lengthy delay between the date of the entry of the grounds judgment and the hearing on ancillary issues, is the appropriate date for valuation of marital property the date of dissolution or a date as close as practicable to the date of trial of the ancillary issues?"
We granted petitioner's application for leave to appeal and, as a matter of first impression, interpret the application of section 503(f) of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (Dissolution Act) (750 ILCS 5/503(f) (West 2000)) to bifurcated dissolution proceedings in which the ancillary issues are determined after the dissolution judgment on grounds. Our interpretation of section 503(f) demonstrates the appropriate valuation date for the situation presented is the date of trial on the property-distribution matter or some other date as close to the date of that trial as is practicable and remand for further proceedings.
¶ 3 The parties married in August 1977 and had three children, Corey (born in September 1984), Jamie (born in May 1986), and Aaron (born in August 1989). In November 2000, petitioner filed his petition for dissolution of the parties' marriage. At a March 26, 2001, hearing, the trial court awarded the parties a judgment of dissolution, reserved ruling on the ancillary issues, and noted a written judgment order on grounds would be entered. In October 2002, petitioner filed a motion for the entry of the dissolution judgment on grounds only, which the court denied in December 2002. In September 2003, petitioner filed a second motion for the entry of a dissolution judgment on grounds only.
¶ 4 On April 6, 2004, the trial court commenced the hearing on ancillary issues. The next day, the court continued the hearing until September 2004. On August 24, 2004, the court entered the dissolution judgment as to grounds only. The September 2004 hearing for the ancillary issues was continued.
¶ 5 In November 2005, petitioner filed a motion in limine to establish the valuation date of the marital property. After a December 2005 hearing on petitioner's motion, the trial court took the matter under advisement and ordered the parties to submit briefs on the issue.
In February 2006, the court set the valuation date as January 1, 2006, citing section 503(f) of the Dissolution Act and the facts of the case. The hearing on the ancillary issues did not resume after that order, and, in fact, the docket sheets contain no entries between August 30, 2007, and February 3, 2010.
¶ 6 In May 2010, the trial court set the continued hearing on the ancillary issues for November 2010. In October 2010, respondent filed a motion to change the valuation date, and petitioner filed a motion to reconsider the valuation date. After a December 3, 2010, hearing, the court set a valuation date of December 31, 2010. On December 14, 2010, petitioner filed a motion for a Rule 308 finding. On February 11, 2011, the court granted petitioner's request and noted a Rule 308 order would be entered. On March 24, 2011, the court entered the written Rule 308 order, certifying the previously stated question. On April 6, 2011, petitioner filed his ...