MASTERS LAW GROUP CASE REVIEW
Maintenance Extension Permanent:
The ex-wife filed a Petition to Extend Maintenance before Judge Mark J. Lopez. The parties were married on July 8, 1978. A Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage was entered on January 4, 2006, after having been married for approximately 27½ years. They had two children, both of whom were emancipated. Judge Lopez found that an award of permanent maintenance was appropriate as it was unrealistic to believe the ex-wife would ever maintain the lifestyle she enjoyed during the marriage without an award of permanent maintenance.
He found that the ex-wife should be awarded the sum of $9,500 per month to meet all of her reasonable needs and to maintain the lifestyle she enjoyed during the marriage. The ex-husband filed a Motion to Reconsider. Judge Lopez granted the Motion, in part, and reduced the ex- husband’s maintenance obligation to $4,800.00 per month. He agreed that he erred in setting the maintenance as a percentage of income but denied the ex-husband’s assertion that his ex- wife was not entitled to permanent maintenance.
The ex-wife was represented by James Quigley and Shana Vitek of Beermann, Pritikin, Mirabelli, Swerdlove, LLP. At the original hearing, the ex-husband was represented by Gregory L. Goldstein of the Law Office of Gregory L. Goldstein. The Motion to reconsider was filed and presented by Erin E. Masters of the Masters Law Group.
On January 2, 2006, the parties signed a Marital Settlement Agreement. It provided that the ex-husband pay maintenance and child support of $5,000.00 per month based on the ex- husband’s income of $183,000.00. This $5,000.00 payment was to be apportioned as follows: $3,000.00 for child support and $2,000.00 for maintenance. The maintenance and child support was to be paid until February 14, 2009 (the date the oldest child became 18 years of age). After that date, the payment of $5,000.00 per month was to continue to be made for a period of two years until February, 2011. The parties agreed that this maintenance would then be subject to judicial review.
The ex-wife was 59 years old and the primary caretaker of the two children throughout the marriage. She possessed a Masters Degree in Home Economics earned in 1978. She testified that during the marriage, in addition to being the primary caretaker of the children, she worked at the ex-husband’s law firm doing administrative and paralegal work, although she did not receive a salary or benefits. She stopped working at the ex- husband’s office in 2005. At the time of the divorce, the ex-wife was employed at Macy’s, in the handbag department earning $12.00 per hour in a temporary seasonal position.
From January 1, 2010 to March 12, 2010, the ex-wife was employed as an Executive Assistant with Kohler, but her position was eliminated due to the recession. The ex-wife attended a full-time training with the Chicago Career Tech program from September, 2010 through March, 2011. She later obtained several unpaid internship positions in the area of social media. At the commencement of the hearing, the ex-wife was employed as an Office Manager in Chicago, Illinois. However, she involuntarily lost that job and was currently not employed.
The ex-wife was under the care of a psychiatrist, and was admitted to an in-patient mental health facility at Northwestern Hospital in September, 2013, for approximately one week. She suffered from depression and anxiety, and took four prescription medications to treat these conditions. She found it difficult to work because the medications she was taking made her extremely tired. She also suffered from scoliosis and carpal tunnel which affected her ability to work full-time jobs that required long periods of sitting, standing or lifting.
The ex-wife’s mortgage payment had increased from $2,800.00 per month to $4,100.00 per month. She now had to pay for COBRA health insurance coverage since she lost her job. She filed for bankruptcy in 2012 and again in2013. Her financial assets totaled less than $40,000.00 in cash, and less than $100,000.00 in retirement assets. Her condominium was under water and was currently in foreclosure.
The ex-husband was a licensed attorney with his own law practice. He handled mainly personal injury and Worker’s Compensation cases. He employed other attorneys and staff at his office and had been in business since 1982. He remarried on September 6, 2013 and resided with his wife in Chicago. He paid $11,000.00 for the wedding and $3,000.00 for the engagement ring. During these proceedings, he moved with his new wife into a larger 3-story, 3-bedroom, 2- bat residence, which they currently rented for $2,750.00 per month. His new wife was employed and earned approximately $60,000.00 per year.
The ex-husband paid $135,000.00 in cash to purchase a boat in 2012. He was paying $5,800.00 per year for the harbor slip and $4,200.00 for indoor heated storage related to the boat. In 2013 he took trips to Las Vegas, including a golf trip and a trip with the parties’ daughters where he lost several hundreds of dollars gambling. He also took a cruise with his current wife in 2013. The record showed no evidence of his 2013 income. The only evidence presented regarding his income was his 2012 tax return, showing total income of $458,736.00.
According to the Marital Settlement Agreement, the ex-husband’s income at the time of the divorce was $183,000.00 per year. The prior agreed upon maintenance amount was $5,000.00 per month, or $60,000.00 per year, which was the equivalent of 33% of the ex- husband’s income. 33% of the ex-husband’s current income would be $151,382.88 or $12,615.24 per month.
The parties participated in mediation with Beverly Tarr. Ms. Tarr prepared a Memorandum following mediation. Judge Lopez found that the ex-husband’s conduct in the entry of a court order, based on the purported mediation agreement without notice to the ex-wife and without her agreement, was dishonest. The ex-husband’s efforts to enforce the terms of the purported mediation agreement were also dishonest.
Judge Lopez rejected any suggestion that the ex-husband lacked the ability to pay maintenance. He found that he had intentionally placed himself in a more negative financial position solely for the purpose of this maintenance review and he did so in anticipation of the court’s review of his maintenance obligation.
The Judge considered all relevant factors contained in 750 ILCS 5/504. He also considered the statutory factors contained in 750 ILCS 5/510 including the loss of employment by the ex-wife and her current employment. He initially awarded her maintenance of $9,500 per month and later reduced it to $5,000 per month.
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