Compliance with Statutory Prerequisites Is a Different Issue than Whether a Trial Court Has Subject-Matter Jurisdiction
In In re Marriage of Armstrong, 2016 IL App (2d) 150815, a case brought before the Second District on a Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) claim, the ex-husband appealed the denial of his motion to dismiss the ex-wife’s postjudgment claim concerning modification of support on the grounds that the original Illinois trial court order modifying his support was void for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The parties had divorced in Connecticut, but both had subsequently relocated to DuPage County. The husband enrolled the Connecticut judgment in Illinois, and the Illinois trial court subsequently modified his support obligation before the husband challenged the validity of the order. The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s denial of his motion to dismiss, reiterating the line of cases providing that although §211 of UIFSA (750 ILCS 22/211) uses the terminology “jurisdiction,” it must be understood only as a procedural limit on when the trial court may modify a support order issued in another state, and not a precondition to the exercise of the court’s inherent authority since the trial court is vested with authority to hear justiciable matters through the Illinois Constitution. See McCormick v. Robertson, 2015 IL 118230, ¶18, 28 N.E.3d 795, 390 Ill.Dec. 142.
Postjudgment Modification of Parental Decision-Making Upheld
In the highly litigated postjudgment modification trial In re Marriage of Wendy LD, 2016 IL App (1st) 160098, the court ultimately modified sole parental decision-making to allocate it from the mother to the father. The trial court heard over 30 days of testimony, including testimony from the court’s expert evaluator, who issued an original report and update, and the mother’s own expert evaluator. The original report of the court’s evaluator recommended decision-making be modified from the mother to the father, but the updated report opined that the mother had shown improvement in taking responsibility for her actions and acknowledging that her actions harmed the children, and therefore a modification was not necessary. The child representative also recommended that decision-making stay with the mother. However, the trial court decided that a modification was in the best interests of the children. The appellate court affirmed, noting that the trial court was in the best position to make judgments with respect to the parties’ credibility (the trial court noted the mother was not credible throughout her testimony) and that the trial court was not obligated to follow the recommendations of the expert evaluator or child representative. In its opinion, the trial court wrote that the biggest factor that weighed in favor of the modification was that the father was more likely to facilitate a relationship between the mother and the children than the mother was with the father.
Illinois Had Personal Jurisdiction Under the Parentage Act over Mother Who Resided in North Carolina
In In re Parentage of W.J.B., 2016 IL App (2d) 140361, after the father filed a petition to establish a parent-child relationship, the mother filed a motion to dismiss on the basis that Illinois did not have personal jurisdiction over her. The trial court disagreed and entered a preliminary injunction preventing the mother from removing the minor child from Illinois. The mother, a resident of North Carolina, filed a petition for leave to appeal, which was granted on the sole issue of jurisdiction. The appellate court affirmed based on §201(a) of UIFSA (750 ILCS 22/201(a)), which provides that Illinois may exercise personal jurisdiction over a nonresident if the child resides in Illinois as a result of the acts or directives of the nonresident. In this case, the child came to reside in Illinois after the mother notified the child’s paternal grandparents that she was having surgery and needed care for the child during her recovery. The paternal grandmother retrieved the child, and the child proceeded to stay in Illinois for five and one-half months even though the mother returned to work three days after the surgery and made no effort to retrieve him until she was served with the father’s petition.
Denial of Children’s Name Changes Upheld
In In re Marriage of Piergari, 2016 IL App (2d) 160594, ___ N.E.3d ___, 409 Ill.Dec. 174, the wife filed an interlocutory appeal after she was enjoined from hyphenating the parties’ three children’s last names during the pendency of the divorce case. The wife had filed a petition under §21-101 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/21-101) claiming that she anticipated resuming the use of her maiden name and that it would facilitate her ability to register the children for school, appointments, and activities if they shared her last name postdivorce. She had also established a web page for one of the children using the hyphenated name when the child had undergone surgery. Because the mother could not prove by clear and convincing evidence that the change in name was necessary to serve the children’s best interests, as required by statute, the trial court properly denied the mother’s petition and enjoined her from using the hyphenated name on any official records. Also, the appellate court harshly struck down the mother’s argument that, merely because she had 80 percent of the parenting time, she would be the parent responsible for enrolling the children in their extracurricular activities since the parties had joint decision-making.
Common-Law Claims Based on Years of Premarital Cohabitation Denied
In In re Marriage of Allen, 2016 IL App (1st) 151620, 62 N.E.3d 312, 407 Ill.Dec. 67, the parties to a divorce action had been married for less than seven months when they both cross-petitioned for a dissolution of marriage. Shortly before trial, the wife petitioned the court to amend her petition to include common-law rights based on 13 years of premarital cohabitation based on the First District Appellate Court opinion Blumenthal v. Brewer, 2014 IL App (1st) 132250, 24 N.E.3d 168, 388 Ill.Dec. 260. The trial court denied her petition, and the appellate court affirmed, holding that the Illinois Supreme Court case Hewitt v. Hewitt, 77 Ill.2d 49, 394 N.E.2d 1204, 31 Ill.Dec. 827 (1979), did not allow such claims to proceed because it rejected equitable or quasi-contract claims between unmarried couples of the opposite sex. This decision is consistent with the Illinois Supreme Court’s decision in Blumenthal v. Brewer, 2016 IL 118781, which ultimately overturned the First District’s opinion.
Thank you for this month’s contributions to IICLE Family Law, Donald C. Schiller & Michelle A. Lawless, Schiller DuCanto & Fleck LLP.
In re Marriage of Goesel, 2017 IL App (3d) 150101, January 24, 2017, Will Co., CARTER, Reversed and vacated; remanded. In dissolution proceedings, wife filed petition for interim attorney fees. Court found that neither party had current ability to pay attorney fees and ordered husband’s attorney to disgorge $40,952 of attorney fees that husband had paid to her. Court did not have discretion to consider wife’s assets when determining her ability to pay attorney fees. Court within its discretion in refusing to order wife to sell real estate to pay attorney fees. When retainer money is available to be refunded to client under retainer agreement as to time of notice of motion for interim attorney fees, those funds are also “available” for disgorgement under Section 501(c)(1)(3) of Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. A court may not require payment of interim attorney fees by disgorgement of retainer funds previously paid to attorney when, prior to attorney receiving notice of petition for interim fees, attorney has already earned those funds. (HOLDRIDGE and SCHMIDT, concurring.)
In re Parentage of A.H., 2017 IL App (1st) 133703, January 20, 2017, Cook Co., 5th Div., LAMPKIN, Affirmed and remanded. In action against biological father, mother filed petition to recognize and enroll a foreign judgment (in Thailand) that established the father’s paternity of triplets, who were conceived through method of assisted reproduction, and imposed support obligations. Court properly extended comity to Thai judgment as it was not contrary to Illinois public policy. Father failed to show that judgment was obtained by fraud or that he was denied fair opportunity to present defense in Thai proceeding. (GORDON and REYES, concurring.)