Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Third Division
from the Trial Court of Cook County. No. 03 D 11762 The
Honorable Mark Lopez Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE LAVIN delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Justices Fitzgerald Smith and Pucinski concurred in
the judgment and opinion.
1 Petitioner Fouad Teymour appeals from the trial court's
orders resolving several postdissolution matters raised by
petitioner and his ex-wife, respondent Hala Mostafa. Other
postdissolution matters remain pending below. Presently,
appellate court case law is divided as to whether our
jurisdiction over this appeal is governed by Illinois Supreme
Court Rule 301 (eff. Feb. 1, 1994) or Illinois Supreme Court
Rule 304(a) (eff. Mar. 8, 2016). We find that supreme court
jurisprudence requires us to depart from the weight of First
District authority and apply Rule 304(a). Because claims
remain pending below and the trial court did not enter the
finding required to confer jurisdiction under this rule, we
dismiss this appeal for lack of jurisdiction.
2 I. Background
3 Petitioner and respondent were married on June 10, 1982,
and had two children. The judgment for dissolution of
marriage, entered in 2006, incorporated the parties'
marital settlement agreement (MSA), which required petitioner
to pay respondent $5000 in monthly maintenance for at least
seven consecutive years. The MSA also provided that before
seven years expired, respondent could file a petition to
extend maintenance payments. Respondent also had an
affirmative obligation to pursue training to increase her
annual income through full-time employment, so long as
petitioner complied with the MSA. Respondent's income
would not be a factor in connection with modifying
petitioner's maintenance obligation unless
respondent's gross annual income from employment exceeded
$50, 000. The MSA further required that petitioner maintain
life insurance and disability insurance policies naming
respondent as the beneficiary.
4 Before seven years expired, respondent filed a petition to
extend and increase maintenance. The petition also sought
child support for their adult son Hisham, who respondent
alleged was disabled, and a rule to show cause why petitioner
should not be held in contempt for his failure to deposit
with respondent copies of the requisite insurance policies.
Additionally, respondent requested attorney fees and costs.
For his part, petitioner sought the reduction of maintenance
because his circumstances had changed and respondent had not
attempted to become self-supporting. Both parties sought
discovery sanctions. On September 23, 2014, the court ordered
that these motions would be "addressed as part of the
case in chief" and "ruled upon at the close of
evidence as to whether sanctions should be ordered."
5 On June 12, 2015, following an evidentiary hearing, the
court entered an order continuing maintenance at $5000 per
month and found petitioner to be in indirect civil contempt
with respect to his insurance obligation. The court did not,
however, impose a penalty in conjunction with the contempt
finding. Cf. Ill. S.Ct. R. 304(b)(5) (eff. Feb. 26,
2010) (stating that a contempt order imposing a penalty is
immediately appealable). The court also granted respondent
leave to file a petition for attorney fees under section
508(b) of Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act
(Act) (750 ILCS 5/508(b) (West 2014)). In addition, the court
denied petitioner's motion for discovery sanctions but
granted respondent's motion for such sanctions. To that
end, the court granted respondent leave to file an attorney
fee petition. See Ill. S.Ct. R. 219(c) (eff. July 1, 2002)
(authorizing the court to award attorney fees as a sanction).
The order did not address respondent's request for
support of Hisham.
6 On July 8, 2015, respondent filed a petition for attorney
fees under section 508(b) and Rule 219. She also filed a
separate petition seeking fees under section 508(a) of the
Act, arguing that while petitioner had the financial
resources to pay her fees, she did not. Meanwhile, petitioner
filed a motion to reconsider the court's ruling, arguing,
among other things, that the court should formally deny
respondent's request for support of Hisham. At a hearing
on that motion, respondent's attorney stated that the
court was not required to address her request for support of
Hisham because neither party had asked the court to do so at
the evidentiary hearing.
7 In an order entered on March 21, 2016, the court corrected
certain factual errors contained in its prior order and
indicated that the court had considered Hisham's
disability in reviewing respondent's maintenance request
but otherwise denied petitioner's motion to
reconsider. Petitioner filed a notice of appeal on
April 18, 2016, challenging, among other things, (1) his
continued maintenance obligation, (2) the imposition of
sanctions, (3) the contempt finding, and (4) the trial
court's failure to dismiss respondent's request for
support of Hisham. Respondent's petitions for attorney
fees, and possibly her request for child support, were still
pending, however, and the trial court did not find under Rule
304(a) that there was no just cause for delaying appeal.
8 II. Analysis
9 On appeal, petitioner raises several challenges to the
trial court's rulings. Yet, we are first compelled to
address this court's jurisdiction. Before the parties
filed briefs in this appeal, respondent filed a motion to
dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction, which a justice
of this court denied. Additionally, petitioner argues that
the record shows the trial court believed its judgment was
10 Whether a court has jurisdiction presents a legal question
to be determined de novo (Stasko v. City of
Chicago, 2013 IL App (1st) 120265, ¶ 27), without
deference to the trial court's reasoning (Nationwide
Advantage Mortgage Co. v. Ortiz, 2012 IL App (1st)
112755, ¶ 20). Additionally, a motion panel's denial
of a motion to dismiss an appeal prior to briefing is not
final and must be modified by the panel hearing the appeal
where jurisdiction is lacking. See In re Estate of
Gagliardo, 391 Ill.App.3d 343, 348-49 (2009). Having
considered the matter further, we now dismiss this appeal.
11 a. Appellate Jurisdiction
12 Pursuant to Rule 301, "[e]very final judgment of a
circuit court in a civil case is appealable as of
right." Ill. S.Ct. R. 301 (eff. Feb. 1, 1994).
Generally, parties may only appeal from final orders
disposing of every claim in a case. John G. Phillips
& Associates v. Brown, 197 Ill.2d 337, 339 (2001).
In addition, our supreme court defines a claim as "any
right, liability or matter raised in an action."
Marsh v. Evangelical Covenant Church, 138 Ill.2d
458, 465 (1990).
13 Under Rule 304(a), however, "[i]f multiple parties or
multiple claims for relief are involved in an
action, an appeal may be taken from a final judgment as to
one or more but fewer than all of the parties or
claims only if the trial court has made an express
written finding that there is no just reason for delaying
either enforcement or appeal or both." (Emphases added.)
Ill. S.Ct. R. 304(a) (eff. Mar. 8, 2016). Conversely,
"[i]n the absence of such a finding, any judgment that
adjudicates fewer than all the claims or the rights and
liabilities of fewer than all the parties is not enforceable
or appealable and is subject to revision at any time before
the entry of a judgment adjudicating all the claims, rights,
and liabilities of all the parties." Id. Thus,
Rule 304(a) may apply where (1) the parties present multiple
claims, (2) the trial court enters a judgment on at least one
of those claims, and (3) that judgment is final. Id.
Under those circumstances, however, the judgment will not be
appealable under Rule 304(a) unless the court makes the
requisite finding that there is no just cause for delay.
14 The districts of this court are divided as to whether
unrelated, pending postdissolution matters constitute
separate "claims" or separate "actions, "
i.e. lawsuits. In re Marriage of
A'Hearn, 408 Ill.App.3d 1091, 1093-94 (3d Dist.
2011) (acknowledging this split between districts). This
distinction is crucial to appellate jurisdiction. If each
pending, unrelated matter constitutes a separate
"claim" in the same action, a Rule 304(a) finding
is required to appeal from an order disposing of only one. On
the other hand, if each unrelated postdissolution matter
constitutes a separate "action, " an order
disposing of only one of those actions constitutes a final
appealable judgment under Rule 301, notwithstanding that
other actions remain pending. In that instance, Rule 304(a)
would not apply, negating the need for a finding as
contemplated by that rule. Such a scenario would also require
a litigant to file a notice of appeal within 30 days or
entirely forgo appellate review of that order. See,
e.g., In re Marriage of Carr, 323
Ill.App.3d 481, ...