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In re Marriage of Breashears

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, First Division

October 17, 2016

In re MARRIAGE OF JAMES BREASHEARS, Petitioner-Appellee, and KAREN BRAZIL BREASHEARS, Respondent-Appellant.

         Appeal 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.

          OPINION

          HARRIS JUSTICE

         ¶ 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.

         ¶ 3 JURISDICTION

         ¶ 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 immediately appealable).

         ¶ 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).

         ¶ 6 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 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 to live.

         ¶ 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 ...


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