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In re Marriage of Haleas

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Second District

April 13, 2017

In re MARRIAGE OF PETER J. HALEAS, Petitioner-Appellee, and FANEE HALEAS, Respondent-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County. No. 14-D-504 Honorable Karen M. Wilson, Judge, Presiding.

          JUSTICE JORGENSEN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Schostok and Spence concurred in the judgment and opinion.



         ¶ 1 On March 14, 2014, petitioner, Peter J. Haleas, filed a petition for dissolution of his marriage to respondent, Fanee Haleas. Ultimately, the parties agreed to resolve their property and maintenance issues through binding arbitration. On August 9, 2016, the trial court confirmed the arbitration award and, on August 24, 2016, it entered a final judgment for dissolution of the marriage, incorporating the award. Respondent appeals, arguing that the arbitrator erred in finding that certain business interests were petitioner's nonmarital property and in determining the amount and duration of maintenance. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         ¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 Petitioner (age 57) is the chairman of Bridgeview Bancorp (Bancorp) and Bridgeview Bank Group (BBG). The parties began dating in 2002, shortly after respondent (age 58) became employed by BBG as vice president of commercial lending. The parties married on July 8, 2006. They both have children from previous marriages, but no children were born to or adopted by them during the marriage.

         ¶ 4 On March 14, 2014, petitioner petitioned to dissolve the marriage. Respondent filed a counter-petition and also a petition for temporary maintenance. On June 5, 2014, the trial court ordered petitioner to pay to respondent: (1) $7500 monthly in temporary maintenance; (2) $10, 000 for travel expenses; (3) all expenses related to the marital residence; and (4) other personal expenses, such as health insurance, medical bills, and car payments. At that time, respondent remained employed by BBG, earning more than $100, 000 annually. In addition, respondent received from BBG health-insurance benefits and payment for various monthly expenditures. However, on May 28, 2015, BBG terminated respondent's employment. Respondent thereafter petitioned the trial court for emergency relief and, on September 21, 2015, the court ordered petitioner to pay respondent an additional $5000 monthly, for a total of $12, 500 in monthly maintenance.

         ¶ 5 Prior to trial, the parties decided to submit certain issues to arbitration. According to respondent, "[o]n or about January 11, 2016, the parties entered into a Mediation/Arbitration Agreement pursuant to the Illinois Uniform Arbitration Act [(Arbitration Act)], 710 ILCS 5/1 [et seq. (West 2014)]." Petitioner agrees that, "[i]n lieu of trial, the parties agreed to engage in binding arbitration, which was expressly subject to the [Arbitration Act]." The parties' agreement has apparently not been included in the record on appeal.[1] The trial court later reported, however, that the parties had agreed to binding arbitration with respect to their property and maintenance issues, and the parties do not dispute that representation.

         ¶ 6 Thus, the matter proceeded to arbitration before the "Honorable Michele F. Lowrance (Ret.)" of JAMS arbitration. Both parties were represented by counsel. After five days of hearing and the presentation of "a substantial amount of evidence and testimony, " on June 20, 2016, the arbitrator issued a 70-page decision. In the decision, the arbitrator expressed that the arbitration was conducted pursuant to Illinois law and, specifically, that the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (Marriage Act) (750 ILCS 5/101 et seq. (West 2014)) applied to the issues arbitrated.

         ¶ 7 The arbitrator commenced her analysis by noting that she found "greatly concerning" instances where respondent "presented a distortion of the facts" and that, although respondent had proffered "elaborate arguments, " respondent failed to substantiate her claims with evidence. Before making written findings, the arbitrator explained:

"The factual findings that follow are necessary to the [a]ward. They are derived from the admissions in the pleadings and the testimony and evidentiary exhibits presented at the hearing. To the extent that these findings differ from any party's positions, that is the result of determinations by the [a]rbitrator as to the credibility and relevance, burden of proof considerations, legal principles, and the weigh[ ]ing of the evidence, both oral and written."

         ¶ 8 As relevant to the issues respondent raises on appeal, the arbitrator rejected respondent's arguments concerning petitioner's income, noting that not all of the deposits into petitioner's accounts constituted "income" under the Marriage Act. The arbitrator found that petitioner had obtained from various financial institutions bona fide loans and that, given that he must repay them, the loans did not enhance petitioner's wealth. The arbitrator found that petitioner's income in 2016 totaled $325, 000. Further, the arbitrator found that specific business interests were nonmarital property and that some of those interests were entirely encumbered and pledged as collateral for "substantial amounts of debt to the State Bank of Texas" (i.e., an $8, 864, 335 debt).

         ¶ 9 As relevant to the maintenance award, the arbitrator found that respondent had received both bachelor's and graduate degrees and had been employed in the banking industry from 1986 through May 2015; in that period, respondent earned more than $100, 000 annually. The arbitrator found that respondent had intentionally not filed for unemployment benefits. Further, the arbitrator found that respondent had submitted to the arbitrator multiple copies of identical job submissions, in an attempt to misrepresent her efforts to seek new employment, and that respondent had not made a good-faith effort to secure new employment. The arbitrator noted that, since the commencement of the dissolution proceedings, respondent had received from petitioner monthly maintenance in the amount of $7500 (from June 2014 to September 2015) and $12, 500 (from September 2015 through the arbitration). Moreover, the arbitrator found that respondent's claims of health problems were unsupported by any evidence and, as presented, did not impede her ability to work.

         ¶ 10 Thereafter, however, the arbitrator applied the 14 factors delineated in section 504(a) of the Marriage Act (750 ILCS 5/504(a) (West Supp. 2015)) and found that maintenance to respondent remained warranted. Moreover, the arbitrator rejected petitioner's argument that, to determine the amount of the maintenance award, she must apply the guideline mathematical formula under section 504 of the Marriage Act, noting that the formula did not apply to a case such as this, where the parties' combined gross income exceeds $250, 000. Further, the arbitrator rejected petitioner's request for a $196, 390 ...

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