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In re Marriage of Harms

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fifth District

May 3, 2018

In re MARRIAGE OF DAVID R. HARMS, Petitioner-Appellant, and RUTH PARKER, f/k/a Ruth Harms, Respondent-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Clair County. No. 05-D-1038 Honorable Julia R. Gomric, Judge, presiding.

          Attorneys for Appellant Anthony R. Garavalia, Brian D. Flynn, Flynn, Guymon & Garavalia,

          Attorneys for Appellee Charles W. Courtney, Jr., Jayni A. Desai, Alana I. Mejias, Courtney, Clark & Mejias, P.C.,

          JUSTICE CHAPMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Cates and Overstreet concurred in the judgment and opinion.



         ¶ 1 This appeal involves an amendment to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (Dissolution Act) that changes the way maintenance is calculated. Prior to 2015, the relevant statute provided a list of factors courts were to consider in determining the propriety, amount, and duration of maintenance. See In re Marriage of Johnson, 2016 IL App (5th) 140479, ¶ 94 (citing 750 ILCS 5/504(a) (West 2012)). Under the version of the statute now in effect, however, the statutory factors are used to determine the propriety of maintenance, but the amount and duration of maintenance are calculated using guideline formulas unless the court finds that there is a reason to depart from those guidelines. 750 ILCS 5/504(a), (b-1), (b-2) (West 2016); In re Marriage of Cole, 2016 IL App (5th) 150224, ¶ 8. At issue in this appeal is whether the new guidelines are applicable in proceedings to modify maintenance that was ordered before the amendment went into effect. We hold that they are not.

         ¶ 2 The petitioner, David Harms, filed his petition for dissolution in 2005, long before the amendment went into effect. At that time, the parties had been married for 19 years and 9 months. The 2007 order dissolving their marriage required David to pay maintenance to the respondent, Ruth Parker, formerly known as Ruth Harms. The order provided that maintenance could not be modified until Ruth reached the age of 65, after which time, either party could request review of the original maintenance award. Both parties later filed petitions to modify maintenance. The court found that the amended version of the statute was applicable and that there was no reason to depart from the guidelines for calculating maintenance. The court denied David's petition to terminate or reduce maintenance and granted Ruth's petition to increase maintenance. David appeals, arguing that (1) the court erred by awarding permanent maintenance without finding that there was a reason to depart from the guidelines, which provide that permanent maintenance may only be awarded in marriages lasting at least 20 years, and (2) both the amount and duration of maintenance constituted an abuse of the court's discretion. We affirm.

         ¶ 3 The parties married in Las Vegas on February 9, 1986. Their son was born in 1987. He was an adult when the dissolution proceedings were initiated. During the parties' marriage, they took out a home equity loan on their marital home. They used the proceeds of that loan to purchase a 20.5-acre parcel of land. David filed a petition for dissolution on November 28, 2005. At that time, as previously noted, the parties had been married for 19 years and 9 months.

         ¶ 4 In November 2006, Judge Laninya A. Cason presided over the hearing in the dissolution proceedings. At that time, Ruth was 61 years old and was no longer working at a regular fulltime job. David would turn 44 the following month and was still working full time.

         ¶ 5 On January 10, 2007, Judge Cason entered an order dividing the parties' property and ordering David to pay maintenance in the amount of $1300 per month. In pertinent part, the court awarded the marital home to Ruth and assigned the debt remaining on the home equity loan to her. However, the court awarded the 20.5-acre parcel of land purchased with the loan to David. The order provided that the maintenance award was "reviewable when respondent reaches the age of 65 years."

         ¶ 6 Both parties filed motions to reconsider or clarify this order. Ruth asked the court to reconsider its decision to assign her the debt used to purchase the land that it awarded to David. She also requested that her maiden name be restored. David noted that the January 10 order did not dissolve the marriage. He further noted that the order did not make any findings as to Ruth's income and it did not state when his maintenance obligation was to begin. Finally, he asserted that the order was "ambiguous and/or vague" as to his maintenance obligation, and he requested "clarification of the Court's ruling as it pertains to Respondent when she reaches the age of 65 years."

         ¶ 7 On April 12, 2007, Judge Cason entered two additional orders. One order dissolved the parties' marriage, effective that date, and restored Ruth's maiden name of Parker. In the other order, Judge Cason attempted to clarify David's maintenance obligation, stating that the award of maintenance was "non-modifiable until Respondent's 65th birthday, July 8, 2011, " and that it would be "reviewable" after that time. She denied both parties' motions in all other respects.

         ¶ 8 On August 28, 2007, Judge Cason entered a supplemental dissolution order, which contained findings of fact and provided some of the clarification sought by David in his earlier motion. Judge Cason found that David's net income at that time was $3750 per month, while Ruth's income was $390 per month. She further found that Ruth needed maintenance and David was able to pay maintenance. She ordered David to pay $1300 "in maintenance, commencing on January 15, 2007." The order provided that this maintenance would be nonmodifiable until July 8, 2011, when Ruth would turn 65, and that after that time, maintenance would be "subject to review upon [the] request of either party."

         ¶ 9 In July 2014, David filed a petition to terminate or reduce his maintenance obligation. In September 2014, Ruth filed a petition to modify maintenance, requesting an increase in maintenance. In June 2016, the matter came for a hearing before Judge Julia Gomric. Both parties testified at the hearing.

         ¶ 10 David testified that he was 52 years old at that time. He had remarried, and he lived with his wife and their six-year-old daughter in a home they built on the 20.5-acre parcel of land that was awarded to him in the dissolution. David was asked about the economic circumstances of the parties at the time they separated. He testified that he was then earning approximately $48, 000 per year and had a retirement account that was valued at $3090. At that time, Ruth worked in a home business the couple owned called Cornfield Industries. David explained that the business sold decals and hitch covers and "that type of stuff." Asked about Ruth's earnings from ...

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