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In re Marriage of Lasota

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Third Division

August 13, 2014

In re MARRIAGE OF ELZBIETA LASOTA, Petitioner-Appellee, and JANUSZ LUTEREK, Respondent-Appellant

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 11 D 940. The Honorable Debra B. Walker, Judge, presiding.

FOR PETITIONER-APPELLEE: Gan Law Group, Chicago, IL.

FOR RESPONDENT-APPELLANT: Paul J. Bargiel, P.C., Chicago, IL; Donald M. Goldman, Chicago, IL.

PRESIDING JUSTICE HYMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Neville and Mason concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

Page 691

HYMAN, J.

[¶1] While Janusz Luterek ended his nine-year marriage to Elzbieta Lasota by obtaining a judgment in Poland where the couple married, that was far from the conclusion of their dissolution proceedings, which took place in Illinois, where they had resettled before their marriage broke down. After the Polish court judgment was registered in Cook County, Elzbieta sought her share of the martial property and an award of temporary maintenance and attorney fees, all issues unaddressed by the Polish court. Janusz argued, however, that the court in Poland and not the

Page 692

circuit court in Cook County had jurisdiction to deal with the marriage, and, in any event, res judicata barred Elzbieta's petition. The circuit court rejected Janusz's contentions and held that under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (the Act) (750 ILCS 5/101 et seq. (West 2012)), jurisdiction existed here because Janusz had not served Elzbieta with process and Elzbieta had not made a general appearance before the court in Poland. The circuit court then ordered Janusz to pay Elzbieta temporary maintenance and interim attorney fees and held him in civil contempt when he failed to comply.

[¶2] Janusz seeks reversal of the order of civil contempt as void due to the circuit court's erroneous determination that Elzbieta had not appeared before the Polish court. The record, however, supports a finding that in addition to never having been served process, Elizbieta at no time submitted herself to the jurisdiction of the Polish court for purposes of the divorce. Therefore, we affirm.

[¶3] BACKGROUND

[¶4] Elzbieta Lasota married Janusz Luterek on July 8, 2000, in Lublin, Poland. During their marriage, the parties, who did not have children, bought a home and moved to Inverness, Illinois. On August 27, 2007, Janusz filed a petition for dissolution of marriage in Cook County. Janusz voluntarily dismissed the petition in September 2007, and in April 2008, filed a petition for dissolution of marriage in Lublin, Poland. On May 2, 2008, Elzbieta filed a petition for dissolution of marriage in Cook County. On March 24, 2009, the Cook County circuit court dismissed Elzbieta's marital dissolution petition on the basis that Janusz's petition was still pending in Poland.

[¶5] On September 8, 2009, the court in Lublin entered a judgment for dissolution of the parties' marriage. The judgment did not address the division of the parties' real estate and other assets or the issues of maintenance, debts, or other financial issues. On January 31, 2011, Elzbieta filed a petition to register the Polish judgment in Cook County. Janusz filed a motion to dismiss alleging, in part, that the circuit court lacked jurisdiction to hear Elzbieta's petition. On March 10, 2011, after a hearing, the circuit court denied Janusz's motion to dismiss Elzbieta's petition and the Polish judgment for dissolution of marriage was registered in the Cook County circuit court. Elzbieta claimed the marital assets included $380,000 she transferred from a bank account in Poland to bank accounts in Illinois controlled by Janusz, as well as the marital home and real estate Janusz purchased with money from their joint bank accounts.

[¶6] On April 1, 2011, Elzbieta filed a petition in the circuit court requesting disposition of the parties' marital property under section 503(d) of the Act (750 ILCS 5/503(d) (West 2012)). Section 503(d) permits the circuit court to dispose of marital property " following dissolution of marriage by a court which lacked personal jurisdiction over the absent spouse or lacked jurisdiction to dispose of the property." Id. Thus, the circuit court's authority to dispose of the parties' marital property depended on its finding that the Polish court lacked jurisdiction over Elzbieta.

[¶7] On May 16, 2011, Janusz filed a motion to dismiss Elzbieta's petition for disposition of marital property. Janusz alleged in count I that the circuit court lacked jurisdiction under section 2-619(a)(1) of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure (the Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-619(a)(1) (West 2012)), because the parties were divorced in Poland not Illinois, and the order ...


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