In re MARRIAGE OF JUDITH E. BRUNKE, Petitioner-Appellee and Cross-Appellant, and JOHN W. BRUNKE, Respondent-Appellant and Cross-Appellee.
from the Circuit Court of Kane County. No. 12-D-387 Honorable
Joseph M. Grady, Judge, Presiding.
JUSTICE ZENOFF delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Justices McLaren and Hutchinson concurred in the
judgment and opinion.
1 Respondent, John W. Brunke, appeals an order of the circuit
court of Kane County extending maintenance awarded to
petitioner, Judith E. Brunke. Judith cross-appeals that part
of the same order denying her petition to increase
maintenance. We affirm.
2 I. BACKGROUND
3 The following facts are adequate for an understanding of
the issues. Where necessary, the facts will be supplemented
in the Analysis section of this opinion. The parties were
married on February 1, 1986. No children were born to or
adopted by the parties during the marriage. The judgment for
dissolution of marriage (JDOM) was entered on April 30, 2012.
Judith was 62 years of age and John was 53. During the
divorce proceedings, Judith was pro se while John
was represented by counsel. The parties entered into a
marital settlement agreement that provided that John would
pay Judith maintenance of $3000 per month for five years,
after which maintenance was reviewable. That agreement was
incorporated into the JDOM.
4 On January 5, 2017, Judith filed both a "Petition to
Review/Extend Maintenance" and a "Petition to
Modify (Increase) Maintenance." The petition to
review/extend maintenance alleged that Judith was presently
unemployed and that John, who was employed by American
Airlines, received a promotion and earned substantially more
income than he did when the JDOM was entered. The petition
further alleged that (1) the original maintenance award was
inequitable, (2) $3000 per month in maintenance was
insufficient for Judith to support herself, (3) she had
expended savings to meet her monthly expenses, and (4) she
had made efforts to become self-supporting. Judith requested
permanent maintenance. Judith's allegations in the
petition to increase maintenance were substantially
identical. Specifically, Judith alleged that John's
promotion and increased income since the divorce were a
substantial change in circumstances. John filed responses
denying that Judith was entitled to the relief she requested.
5 On March 7, 2017, John filed a "Motion to Abate
Maintenance Obligation," in which he requested that
maintenance be abated pending trial. John noticed that motion for
hearing on March 16, 2017. John then filed a second,
identical "Motion to Abate Maintenance Obligation"
on March 15, 2017. That motion was also noticed for hearing
on March 16 and was denied on May 17, 2017. On June 23, 2017,
John filed a third motion to abate maintenance. The court
continued that motion to the trial on Judith's petitions.
6 At trial, which occurred over four days in August and
September 2018, the parties stipulated to the following
facts. Judith was 68 years of age and John was 59. Judith was
awarded the marital residence, which was worth $395, 000 when
the JDOM was entered, as well as monetary assets totaling
approximately $842, 000 at that time. Judith's brokerage
accounts were worth $897, 030.34 as of December 31, 2017.
Judith's real estate taxes and homeowner association fees
totaled $9864 per year, she would receive $482 per month in
Social Security benefits if she were to take them, she
received $1761 per month from a certain "A" fund,
she paid approximately $9000 in income taxes for the years
2016 and 2017, and she earned $5893.46 working at Target in
7 The parties then stipulated that John's income was
$362, 000 per year, he had $120, 000 in a combined checking
and savings account, his individual retirement account was
worth $1, 276, 931.37, and his brokerage accounts totaled
$188, 208.33. In addition, the equity in John's home was
$108, 515, his vehicles were worth $39, 000, and his airplane
and hangar were worth approximately $150, 000.
8 Judith testified as follows. After the divorce, she waited
2½ years to seek employment. She was
"gobsmacked" by the divorce, and it took her
"a very, very long time to work through" getting
her life in order. Eventually, she applied for retail jobs
but was turned down because she was too old. Then, in 2015,
Target hired her.
9 Judith was currently employed at Target, making $12 per
hour. She usually worked 16 to 20 hours per week. Her pay
stubs for a certain period in 2017 reflected that she worked
fewer hours. She did not seek additional employment to
supplement her income. Judith paid Medicare $135 per month.
She also paid $157.12 per month for a supplemental insurance
policy and $24.10 per month for a drug prescription policy.
10 Judith had a bachelor's degree and a master's
degree in education. She taught for 11 years in Virginia and
Kentucky before moving to Illinois in 1985. Because Illinois
did not recognize her teaching certificate from Kentucky, she
would have had to complete another three years of education
to be eligible to teach in Illinois. Rather than do that, she
took a job as a college admissions counselor, making
approximately $21, 000 per year. She stayed in that job for
two years and then moved to another college, also for two
years. She was terminated from that job and did not work
again until she volunteered at a hospital in 2009 or 2010.
11 According to Judith, she and John traveled "all the
time" during the marriage-to all 50 states, Europe, the
Caribbean, and the Bahamas. Judith planned all the trips. She
had no budget. She testified: "As long as the bills were
paid and there was money in the bank, I had pretty much free
rein." According to Judith, they also entertained
"all the time." She testified that "we were
known for our parties." She had no spending limits.
12 Judith thought that Matthew Williams, John's divorce
attorney, represented them both, based on conversations that
she had with John and Williams. John had sent Judith an
e-mail stating that "we" had paid Williams a
retainer. According to Judith, in March 2012, John told her
that he would pay her more maintenance if he received a pay
raise. Subsequently, when his pay was increased, John gave
her an extra $120 per month. However, when his pay was
increased again and she asked for more money, John said that
Williams told him that he did not have to increase her
13 Judith testified that her lifestyle after the divorce was
"not even close" to what she enjoyed during the
marriage. She could not afford to travel or give parties. She
used to have her hair done every three weeks and now she had
it done every five weeks. She dipped into capital to pay
taxes and for home improvements. When John's maintenance
payments were late, she used her retirement funds. Judith
described her finances as "extremely finite."
According to Judith, she depleted some of her assets to pay
her current expenses, including attorney fees.
14 On cross-examination, Judith testified that she was
"under duress" when she signed the marital
settlement agreement. She disputed that her current assets
were worth $1.4 million. She testified that she had $1.2
million in addition to the house. According to Judith's
financial affidavit, dated July 2018, she had $2075 per month
in income and $6700 per month in expenses. Those claimed
expenses included $2000 per month for groceries for herself
and $1200 per month for home repairs. Judith declared income
of $79, 269 on her 2017 tax return. Judith testified that she
was not aware that the maintenance award required her to
search for a job immediately after the divorce. Judith also
testified that she continued to travel after the divorce. She
testified that she visits Florida and Washington D.C.,
although her expenses for travel to Washington are reimbursed
by the person whom she visits there. Judith also traveled to
England twice after the divorce. According to her financial
affidavit, she spends $700 per month on vacations, dining
out, and entertainment.
15 Next, John called Williams, who testified that he
represented only John in the divorce. Williams believed that
Judith was represented by counsel "early on."
According to Williams, he never had a telephone conversation
with Judith, nor did he ever exchange e-mails with her.
Williams testified that his practice was not to communicate
with pro se litigants. He stated that his contract
with John clearly stated that he represented only John, and
the marital settlement agreement also stated that he
represented John and not Judith. Williams testified that John
was "very clear" that "it was to be a 50/50
division of the estate."
16 Next, Judith called John as an adverse witness. John
testified as follows. When the parties divorced, he was
earning $182, 000 per year as an American Airlines pilot and
Judith was unemployed outside the home, although she began an
eBay business. After the divorce, John underwent additional
training to fly the Boeing 787, and his pay substantially
increased. In 1990, when Judith expressed interest in
becoming a nurse, John offered to send her to school, but
Judith did not follow through.
17 John denied that the parties traveled extensively during
the marriage. He testified that they visited "quite a
few" states and that they traveled to England 10 times
and to Italy once. John agreed that they also traveled to
Canada and the Bahamas. They visited his mother in New York
and Judith's son in Colorado. He testified that the costs
for those trips were "nominal" because of his
position with the airline. John testified that he did not
give Judith a household budget. The marital residence, where
Judith still resided, was 2900 square feet and had four
bedrooms and a three-car garage.
18 John testified that Judith requested $3000 per month in
maintenance, "based on her needs." According to
John, he had discussed with Judith increasing her maintenance
if his salary increased, "while we were getting along
quite well." They stopped communicating in 2013 or 2014,
and John stopped paying extra maintenance in January 2017.
19 John testified that they did not spend $2000 per month on
groceries while they were married. He described their parties
as "comfortable" but not "lavish." In
2001, after September 11, his pay decreased. In 2011,
American Airlines went bankrupt, and John lost $1 million in
retirement savings. Around 2005, John had heart surgery and
now must complete two yearly physicals to be ...