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In re Marriage of Akbani

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fifth District

August 26, 2014

In re MARRIAGE OF SALIM AKBANI, Petitioner-Appellant, and DONNA S. AKBANI, n/k/a Donna S. Robbins, Respondent-Appellee

Page 400

Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Clair County. No. 08-D-555. Honorable Zina R. Cruse, Judge, presiding.


In dissolution proceedings, the trial court properly found that the separation and divorce the parties entered into in 2008, including the provisions dividing the parties' assets and obligations, was binding and enforceable on the parties, but that the agreement the parties entered into in 2010 was not binding, since that agreement contained an attorney review clause not present in the earlier agreement, that clause was a condition precedent to the completion of the agreement, and the condition was not satisfied.

For Appellant: Richard W. Thompson, Belleville, IL; Jill Laux Schubert, The Law Offices of Jill J. Laux, L.L.C., O'Fallon, IL.

For Appellee: Daniel J. Grueninger, The Law Office of Daniel J. Grueninger, Belleville, IL.

JUSTICE GOLDENHERSH delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Welch and Justice Stewart concurred in the judgment and opinion.


Page 401


[¶1] Petitioner, Salim Akbani, appeals from a supplemental judgment of dissolution of marriage entered in the circuit court of St. Clair County which inter alia confirmed two previous orders of the trial court, the first being a finding that an April 2008 separation and divorce agreement (2008 agreement) entered into between petitioner and respondent, Donna S. Akbani, n/k/a Donna S. Robbins, is binding on the parties, and the second being a finding that a 2010 handwritten agreement (2010 agreement) is not binding on the parties. The 2010 agreement was found unenforceable on the basis that it contained an attorney review clause, which was a condition precedent to the completion of the 2010 agreement, and that condition was not met. The supplemental judgment allocated property and debt between the parties pursuant to the 2008 agreement and resolved the remaining issues between the parties not covered by the 2008 agreement. Both parties filed motions to reconsider. Ultimately, the trial court entered an order granting in part and denying in part each party's motion to reconsider. Petitioner filed a timely notice of appeal. The two issues raised by petitioner in this appeal are: (1) whether the 2008 agreement is enforceable and (2) whether the trial court erred in finding the 2010 agreement unenforceable. We affirm.


[¶3] The parties married on October 16, 1998. No children were born or adopted during the marriage. The parties each blame the other for the divorce.

[¶4] The parties became business partners, opening Gateway Classic Cars in St. Louis in April 1999, and a second classic car business, Streetside Classic Cars, in Charlotte, North Carolina, in September 2005. Petitioner was mainly involved in sales, while respondent handled administrative matters. However, respondent testified that petitioner was " definitely" involved in the day-to-day bookkeeping and accounting of the businesses.

[¶5] Respondent ultimately spent more and more time at the Charlotte business. According to petitioner, respondent told him she wanted out of the marriage in

Page 402

March 2008. Petitioner claims he was blind-sided by respondent's announcement and tried to persuade respondent to change her mind. He testified he was completely distraught and was willing to give respondent whatever she asked for in order to make her happy and save the relationship. He later learned that respondent was having an affair with Bob Mueller, one of their employees.

[¶6] On the other hand, respondent testified the parties' marriage was rocky for years, but the final straw for her came in late February or early March 2008, over a proposed business venture. Respondent and petitioner went to lunch at which time he informed her he wanted to build a $20 million project on a seven-acre tract the parties owned. The parties purchased the tract with plans to build a new dealership on it. Petitioner now wanted to build a hotel, convention center, and restaurant on the property and showed respondent plans of his proposal. Respondent wanted no part of this business venture because she thought it was too risky.

[¶7] According to respondent, petitioner told her if she was not happy in the marriage, she could leave. Respondent testified petitioner always told her that, but by April 2008, she had enough and told him she believed that is what she should do. The parties then discussed how to split up their businesses and assets.

[¶8] The parties agree respondent drafted the 2008 agreement, which divided most of the parties' assets and businesses, but agree on little else. According to petitioner, respondent went from wanting nothing to wanting everything, and he kept revising the 2008 agreement to meet her demands in the hope of salvaging the relationship. Petitioner claimed he was in denial about the parties' relationship even when the 2008 agreement was formalized on April 14, 2008. He did not realize respondent was serious about the divorce until he came home from a trip in May and found that respondent had taken many items out of the marital residence in O'Fallon.

[¶9] Respondent testified petitioner drafted the agreement on the day she told him she wanted out of the marriage. The parties discussed splitting the businesses, with petitioner taking the St. Louis business and respondent taking the Charlotte business. Respondent testified she did not provide petitioner with any of the language he used in drafting the 2008 agreement and made no changes to the 2008 agreement, except to change typographical and spelling errors.

[¶10] The 2008 agreement provided, inter alia, that respondent would (1) receive the parties' condo in Charlotte, (2) take over the Charlotte business, beginning on May 1, 2008, (3) receive the parties' 2003 Ford Expedition, and (3) receive a $135,000 cash settlement " for the business and personal separation and divorce." The $135,000 was to be paid in installments, including $75,000 on May 1, 2008, from a then-existing line of credit and thereafter 12 installment payments of $5,000 per month. The 2008 agreement further provided that petitioner would (1) receive the marital home located in O'Fallon, (2) receive the parties' land at Shafer Airfield, but only after he paid respondent the $135,000 settlement, and (3) take over the parties' St. Louis business and any expenses incurred after April 20, 2008. The agreement also provided the parties would share equally in the costs of the divorce and the parties would provide for the payment of certain expenses pertaining to ...

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