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In re Marriage of Dhillon

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District

November 7, 2014

In re MARRIAGE OF INDERBIR S. DHILLON, Petitioner-Appellee and Cross-Appellant, and NAVNEET K. DHILLON, n/k/a Navneet Kaur, Respondent-Appellant and Cross-Appellee

Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 10th Judicial Circuit, Peoria County, Illinois. Circuit No. 07-D-519. The Honorable Michael Risinger, Judge, presiding.

Affirmed in part and reversed in part; caused remanded with directions.

SYLLABUS

In an appeal from the dissolution of the childless marriage of an engineer and a wife who worked as an accountant, the appellate court remanded the cause with directions to award the wife 50% of the marital funds held in a savings account at the account's high point when the husband later dissipated that amount, and furthermore, the trial court was directed to consider whether the husband dissipated any other funds up to the date the dissolution judgment was entered and to award the husband's nonmarital estate a credit of $3,170.97 against what he owed for the dissipation of the marital funds as reimbursement for money he contributed to his 401(k) account prior to the marriage and to take any further action required.

Michael A. Fleming (argued), of Michael A. Fleming, P.C., of Peoria, for appellant.

Kirk W. Bode (argued), of Pekin, for appellee.

JUSTICE CARTER delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices McDade and Wright concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

CARTER, JUSTICE

Page 1273

[¶1] After a bench trial in a marital dissolution proceeding, the trial court entered an order dividing the parties' property. Both parties appeal from that order, asserting that the trial court erred in various aspects of its ruling. We agree with the parties that some of the trial court's ruling was erroneous. We, therefore, affirm the trial court's property-division order in part, reverse in part, and remand with directions.

[¶2] I. FACTS

[¶3] Husband, Inderbir S. Dhillon, and wife, Navneet K. Dhillon, now known as Navneet Kaur, were married in 2002, had no children, and were separated in May 2007. Husband filed for divorce in August 2007, and a bifurcated judgment of dissolution of marriage was entered in July 2009.

[¶4] A bench trial was held on property division in October 2012. The evidence presented at the trial, which consisted of the testimony of husband and wife and numerous financial documents that were admitted into evidence, can be summarized as follows. Prior to the marriage, starting in

Page 1274

about 2000, husband lived in an apartment in Michigan and worked as an engineer for a company named Mahle. An account statement that was admitted into evidence showed that husband had about $60,000 in one of his individual accounts at about the time of the marriage. While husband was working at Mahle prior to the marriage, he contributed to a 401(k) account. An account statement that was admitted into evidence showed that about six months prior to the marriage, husband had $3,170.97 in his Mahle 401(k) account.

[¶5] After the parties were married, wife moved into husband's apartment in Michigan. Husband managed all of the parties' finances. Husband continued to work full time at Mahle, and wife worked part-time as a cashier at Rite Aid, while she pursued a master's degree in business administration (MBA). Husband's yearly income at that time was about $50,000. Husband continued to contribute to his 401(k) during the marriage until he left his position at Mahle in July or August 2005 to take a position with Caterpillar. When husband left his position at Mahle, he was making about $54,000 per year and had about $19,000 in his 401(k) account.

[¶6] In August 2005, husband began working for Caterpillar in Peoria and the parties moved to that location. Husband's starting salary with Caterpillar was about $62,000 or $63,000 per year. For about the first five months that the parties lived in Peoria, wife did not work because she was preparing for the certified public accountant (CPA) exam. In about January 2006, wife began working part-time for an accounting firm as an intern and eventually, in summer 2006, transitioned into a full-time job as a CPA with that same firm after she passed the CPA exam. She was paid about $35,000 per year. The incomes of husband and wife increased over time. In the last full year of the marriage, husband's gross income was about $82,000 and wife's was about $49,000.

[¶7] During the entire marriage, the parties lived very frugally. They owned no real estate, lived in an apartment, and, for the most part, spent money only on necessities. Indeed, for the last several months or year that the parties were together, they were able to live on wife's income alone and were able to save husband's entire net income of over $4,000 per month. In addition, for several months prior to that time, husband and wife were able to save $2,000 to $3,000 per month.

[¶8] Prior to the parties' move, husband set up several bank accounts for them to use while they lived in Peoria. One of the accounts was established jointly in husband and wife's name, another account was established jointly in the names of husband and his father, and two more accounts were established in husband's name alone. One of the accounts set up in husband's name alone, savings account 4863, is of special relevance to this appeal.

[¶9] Account 4863 was opened in July 2005. Shortly after the account was opened or within the first month thereafter, several large deposits were made to the account in the approximate amounts of $80,000, $49,000, and $53,000, for a total of approximately $182,000. Because wife was not involved in the parties' finances, she was not aware of account 4863 or of the amount of money it contained. Additional deposits were made to that account during the course of the marriage, including husband's paycheck and bonuses and other lump-sum amounts, and despite occasional withdrawals, the balance in the account continued to grow. According to the bank statements that were admitted at trial, over the course of about two years, by March 2007, the account had grown in value to a high of $301,606.80, a substantial

Page 1275

portion of which appeared to be from husband's earnings during the marriage.

[¶10] During the course of the litigation in this case, husband changed attorneys several times, represented himself pro se at times, and was not forthcoming with discovery as to his financial information. Most of the financial information in this case was obtained by wife's attorney through subpoena. One of the financial documents that wife received from husband was a copy of the parties' joint tax return for 2006. When wife obtained a certified copy of that same document from the IRS, however, it showed that $10,000 of interest income that husband had received was not listed on the tax return that husband had provided to wife in discovery but was listed on the tax return that husband had actually filed with the IRS. Husband testified at trial that two versions of the return were prepared, one where he claimed the interest and the other where his father claimed the interest, so that they could determine which approach was the more tax advantageous. Husband indicated that he must have tendered the wrong return to wife in discovery.

[¶11] After wife subpoenaed the bank information, she learned of savings account 4863 and of the substantial amount of money that it had contained prior to the parties' separation. The bank records showed that husband had essentially depleted the account in a few large transfers over a short period in March 2007. Most of the funds were eventually transferred to an account held in husband's father's name alone. Husband testified that the funds always belonged to his father, that they were placed into account 4863 so that husband could make transfers of money on his father's behalf and so that his father would have money available to him at various times when he came to the United States from India. Husband testified further that although his paycheck and bonuses were deposited into the account, transfers were also made out of the account for marital expenses. Wife, on the other hand, testified that she and husband were able to save a large amount of money on a monthly basis when they were married, although she did not know how much; she was not aware of the large amount of money in account 4863; and that it was possible that some of the money in account 4863 came from husband's father or sister. Limited financial documents were admitted by husband which showed that large deposits were made into a joint account of husband and his father (or husband and his sister) in July 2005 and that those funds were transferred to account 4863 a short time later.

[¶12] Regarding the status of the marriage, husband testified that there were no problems in the relationship until wife left him in May 2007. Husband also denied that he ever struck wife or that he was physically abusive. Wife, on the other hand, testified that as of the beginning of 2007, she was very depressed and unhappy about the marriage and believed that husband knew that she felt that way. According to wife, there were several problems with the marriage, and the marriage " just started falling." At various times during wife's testimony, husband's attorney objected when wife was asked questions relative to husband's conduct and to the status of the marriage. In ruling upon those objections, the trial judge stated that the ...


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