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In re Marriage of Engst

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fourth District

April 3, 2014

In re: MARRIAGE OF DAVID ENGST, Petitioner-Appellant, and MICHELLE ENGST, Respondent-Appellee

Appeal from Circuit Court of McLean County. No. 13D392. Honorable Charles G. Reynard, Judge Presiding.

Affirmed.

SYLLABUS

Where the evidence was sufficient to warrant a finding that the mental well-being of respondent or the parties' children was jeopardized by both parents' occupancy of the marital residence, the trial court's award of exclusive possession of the residence during the pendency of the marriage dissolution proceedings to respondent pursuant to section 701 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act was not against the manifest weight of the evidence.

Michelle N. Schneiderheinze and Jon D. McLaughlin (argued), both of Bloomington Law Group LLC, of Bloomington, for appellant.

Helen E. Ogar (argued), of Ogar & Miller, of Bloomington, for appellee.

JUSTICE HARRIS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Turner and Steigmann concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

HARRIS, JUSTICE

Page 614

[¶1] Petitioner, David Engst, filed a petition for dissolution of his marriage to respondent, Michelle Engst. During the proceedings, Michelle filed a petition for exclusive possession of the marital residence, which the trial court granted. David appeals the court's interlocutory order pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 307 (eff. Feb. 26, 2010), arguing (1)

Page 615

the court's order was against the manifest weight of the evidence and (2) the court erred by denying his motion to dismiss Michelle's petition for exclusive possession of the marital residence. We affirm.

[¶2] I. BACKGROUND

[¶3] The parties were married in September 1992 and had two children: A.E., born in April 2000; and C.E., born in July 2004. On August 2, 2013, David filed his petition for dissolution of marriage.

[¶4] On August 14, 2013, Michelle filed a petition for exclusive possession of the marital residence. She asserted both parties had the legal right to reside in the marital residence with the minor children. Michelle also alleged as follows:

" That the mental well-being of the minor children of the marriage would be jeopardized by the continued occupancy of the marital residence by both spouses and it is for the mental well-being of [Michelle] and the minor children that exclusive possession of the marital residence be awarded to [Michelle]."

Michelle requested the trial court enter an order granting her exclusive possession of the marital residence during the pendency of the divorce proceedings. The same date, she also filed a petition for temporary relief, requesting the court order David to contribute to the payment of all marital obligations, award her temporary custody of the minor children, and order David to pay temporary child support.

[¶5] On October 25, 2013, David filed a motion to dismiss Michelle's petitions pursuant to section 2-615 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-615 (West 2012)). Relevant to this appeal, he argued Michelle's filings were legally insufficient and did not contain sufficient facts to establish each element of a cause of action.

[¶6] The same date David filed his motion, the trial court conducted a hearing in the matter. Initially, it considered the motion to dismiss. David's counsel argued Michelle's petition contained only vague and conclusory allegations, rather than specific allegations of fact, making it " virtually impossible" for him to prepare any kind of defense. Michelle's counsel argued the petitions were sufficient to put David on notice of Michelle's claims. The court denied David's motion to dismiss, stating, although it preferred to have more detailed pleadings, it was not persuaded that David had been " meaningfully disadvantaged."

[¶7] The matter proceeded on Michelle's requests for temporary relief and both parties testified. Michelle stated she worked as a junior high school teacher and resided in the marital residence with David and the parties' two children. She was seeking an award of temporary custody of the children and stated that, historically, she had been primarily responsible for the children's care. Michelle testified David worked for UPS and, during his employer's busy ...


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