Supreme Court Summaries

Opinions filed December 28, 2012



 

 

In re Marriage of Mathis, 2012 IL 113496

Appellate citation: 2011 IL App (4th) 110301.

 

      JUSTICE THEIS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

      Justices Freeman, Karmeier, and Burke concurred in the judgment and opinion.

      Justice Garman dissented, with opinion, joined by Chief Justice Kilbride and Justice Thomas.

 

      This dispute over how to establish the value of property after a marital dissolution comes from Champaign County. The parties married in 1977, had three children, and became involved in marriage dissolution proceedings on November 2, 2000. On March 26, 2001, the circuit court made a docket entry stating that grounds for marriage dissolution existed, awarding a judgment therefor, and reserving ancillary issues. That docket entry was repeated when, on August 26, 2004, the court entered an order entitled “Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage (Ancillary Matters Reserved).”

      In November of 2005, the husband sought to establish a property valuation date, and contended that it should be the date of marriage dissolution. The trial court took the view that current values should be used and, initially, set a date of January 1, 2006, by written order. Matters were continued, however, until the court held hearings in 2010 and set a new valuation date of December 31, 2010, over the husband’s contention that August 26, 2004, was the appropriate date. The circuit court certified the following question for interlocutory review: “In a bifurcated dissolution [of marriage] proceeding, when a grounds judgment has been entered, and when there is a lengthy delay between the date of the entry of the grounds judgment and the hearing on ancillary issues, is the appropriate date for valuation of marital property the date of dissolution or a date as close as practicable to the date of trial of the ancillary issues?”

      The appellate court held in 2011 that the latter date, the date of trial on ancillary matters, is the time for property evaluation.

      In this decision, the supreme court disagreed and reversed the judgment of the appellate court, noting that the court below is the Illinois reviewing court to have so held. Otherwise, the appellate court, in a long and consistent line of cases, has held that the valuation date is the date of dissolution. This result is supported by statutory construction and also by the rationale that, once a dissolution has been entered, the property in question is no longer marital property.

      The supreme court held that, in a bifurcated dissolution proceeding, the date of valuation for marital property should be the date of entry of judgment for dissolution following a trial on grounds for dissolution, or another date near it. In this case, the circuit court’s order was vacated and it was directed to set a valuation date of August 26, 2004, the date of its written order dissolving the marriage.

      Noting that this proceeding is more than 12 years old, the supreme court opined that, although bifurcation may sometimes be necessary, one should be mindful of the pitfalls associated with it. Rather than adjust later, it is better to divide sooner. The cause was remanded to the circuit court for further proceedings.