Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, First Division
In re MARRIAGE OF JAMES BREASHEARS, Petitioner-Appellee, and KAREN BRAZIL BREASHEARS, Respondent-Appellant.
from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 15 D 4471 Honorable
Regina A. Scannicchio, Judge Presiding.
JUSTICE HARRIS delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Presiding Justice Connors and Justice Mikva
concurred in the judgment and opinion.
1 On July 27, 2015, a hearing was held on petitioner's
emergency petition requesting a bifurcated dissolution of
marriage. At the hearing, petitioner testified that the
reason he wished to obtain a bifurcated divorce was so he
could marry his paramour and dispose of his assets while he
was still alive. After hearing testimony concerning the
investment properties and the condition of petitioner's
health, the trial court granted the emergency petition for
bifurcation and dissolved petitioner and respondent's
marriage. On July 30, 2015, petitioner married his paramour.
On August 21, petitioner died. Respondent timely filed her
notice of appeal.
2 On appeal, the respondent argues the trial court abused its
discretion in granting the petition for bifurcation because
appropriate circumstances did not exist for granting it. We
review the trial court's decision under an abuse of
discretion standard. The trial court heard testimony from the
parties and was aware of the potential entanglements
concerning the marital estate. Based on the record before the
trial court and prior case law, we affirm the decision of the
trial court finding that appropriate circumstances existed
for granting a bifurcated judgment of dissolution.
4 On July 27, 2015, the trial court entered an order granting
the emergency petition for bifurcation and dissolved the
marriage of petitioner and respondent while reserving ruling
on the marital estate. Such a ruling is considered a final
and appealable judgment under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 301
(eff. Feb. 1, 1994). See In re Marriage of Tomlins,
2013 IL App (3d) 120099, ¶ 21 (citing various appellate
cases which found an order granting bifurcation as final and
5 Accordingly, this court has jurisdiction pursuant to
Illinois Supreme Court Rules 301 and 303 governing appeals
from final judgments entered below. Ill. S.Ct. R. 301 (eff.
Feb. 1, 1994); R. 303 (eff. May 30, 2008).
7 Petitioner and respondent were married on July 25, 1984, in
Chicago, Illinois. No children were born to the marriage,
though petitioner has two children from a prior marriage.
Sometime in 2005, the parties stopped acting as husband and
wife; however, they continued to live in the same house. In
2007, petitioner began seeing another woman and began
splitting his time between her residence and the marital
residence. This living arrangement continued until May 2014
when petitioner began living full time with the other woman.
8 In May 2014, petitioner was diagnosed with skin cancer and
began receiving treatment. Petitioner underwent several
surgeries and began receiving both chemotherapy and radiation
treatment. On March 30, 2015, petitioner was advised by his
doctor that the cancer had spread to other parts of his body
and he had 6 to 12 months to live.
9 On May 15, 2015, petitioner filed a petition seeking a
bifurcated dissolution of marriage. In seeking a bifurcation,
petitioner alleged he wished to have his marriage to
respondent dissolved immediately so that he may create an
estate plan free of respondent's input or influence and
leave his estate to his children and others of his choosing.
On June 23, 2015, petitioner filed an emergency amended
petition for entry of a bifurcated judgment of dissolution.
It alleged that since the filing of the first petition,
petitioner was informed that he had substantially less time
10 Petitioner reiterated his desire to create an estate plan
free of respondent's influence and leave his estate to
his children and others of his choosing. He also stated that
he wished for the marriage to be dissolved so that he could
marry his paramour. In response to the emergency petition,
respondent asked for time to conduct discovery on
petitioner's medical condition and the parties'
marital assets. In an order dated June 25, the trial court
ordered the parties to complete Cook County Local Rule 13.3.1
financial disclosure statements (Cook Co. Cir. Ct. R. 13.3.1
(eff. June 1, 2011)) along with standard marital
interrogatories. On July 16, 2016, the trial court set
petitioner's amended bifurcation petition for hearing on
July 27, 2015.
11 On July 27, the trial court held its hearing on
petitioner's bifurcation petition and heard testimony
from both petitioner and respondent. Before the hearing
began, petitioner provided his Rule 13.3.1 financial
disclosure statements along with a compact disc (CD)
containing various financial documents. However, petitioner
could not recall the financial information disclosed on the
CD at the start of the hearing. Petitioner was also
questioned about the investment properties that were acquired
during the marriage. He testified that his son from a
previous marriage manages the properties and respondent had
never had an interest in managing them or even knew ...