1. Arbitration award in dissolution of marriage case upheld. Parties to a divorce case agreed to resolve their property and maintenance issues through binding arbitration and entered into a Mediation/Arbitration Agreement pursuant to the Illinois Uniform Arbitration Act. The agreement stated that “in lieu of trial, the parties agree to engage in binding arbitration, which is expressly subject to the Arbitration Act.” The trial court ultimately confirmed the arbitration ruling and entered judgment over wife’s objection. The Second District upheld the trial court’s confirmation of the award after wife appealed the ruling that husband’s business was non-marital as well as the maintenance award she received pursuant to Section 504 of the IMDMA. The Arbitration Act provides for very limited judicial review and there is exists a presumption that the arbitrator did not exceed his or her authority nor violate public policy. A court can overturn an arbitrator only if there is a gross mistake of fact or law and such mistake must be on the face of the award itself. The Court also noted that when parties agree to arbitration, they have agreed to have their dispute settled by an arbitrator and therefore, it is the arbitrator’s opinion that they agree to accept. Sections 12 and 13 of the Arbitration Act provide the basis for a court to vacate or modify an arbitration award, and because wife presented no valid grounds under those sections of the Act, the trial court’s confirmation of the arbitration ruling was upheld. The ruling did not affect child custody or child support. In re the Marriage of Haleas, 2017 App (2d) 160799.
2. Ex-husband not entitled to return of funds garnished from his paycheck in order to redistribute monies between two different child support obligations. In a highly contested post-judgment proceeding where ex-husband owed significant sums in unpaid child support, maintenance and property settlement obligations to his first ex-wife, she obtained a child support lien with the assistance of IDHFS. When ex-husband received a severance check from his employer, a 50% garnishment ($11,065) to his first ex-wife attached to his net earnings, and $90 garnishment attached to his second ex-wife for a second child support obligation. On March 4, 2016, ex-husband received a bonus check from his employer which had a 50% garnishment to the first ex-wife in the amount of $2,518 and no payment to his second ex-wife. Second ex-wife obtained a court order on March 4, 2016 for a portion of his severance, and the order provided that payment was not due until June 4, 2016. Ex-husband argued on appeal that the inequitable distribution of his earnings in favor of his first ex-wife was improper and that the garnishments should have been equally distributed between the two child support orders. The Appellate Court rejected his argument noting that the time the employer paid out the garnishment on the severance and the bonus, there was no indication that there were any competing claims on those earnings. Therefore, there was no legal or factual justification to reapportion the garnished earnings. The Court also discussed the fact that each unpaid support obligation is to be treated as an individual judgment, that the garnishment complied with the Consumer Protection Act, and that past-due child support is a vested right of the designated recipient and is not subject to reduction. In re the Marriage of Schomburg and Osland, 2016 IL App (3d) 160420.
3. Entry of bifurcated judgment improper when guardian for wife did not provide affirmative consent to its entry. The Appellate Court reversed a trial court’s entry of bifurcated judgment after a review of the record established that wife’s counsel had not consented to the entry of a bifurcated judgment because they had represented to the court that while they did not object, they were having a guardian appointed for wife and it would be the job of the guardian to consent on behalf of wife. Both husband and wife were elderly and living in separate care facilities. The trial court had conducted a hearing on grounds and husband’s guardian testified as to grounds for the divorce several months before the entry of judgment. The case was continued numerous times and eventually wife’s counsel stated that wife had a sudden decline in cognitive functioning and they intended to proceed with guardianship proceedings and that it would be the guardian’s decision to consent to the entry of judgment. The trial court received the judgment which it entered on a date that wife’s counsel was not present, but the same day that wife’s guardian was appointed. Wife brought a motion to vacate the judgment, but the trial court’s oral ruling found wife’s children were attempting to delay the entry of judgment in order to get an advantage with respect to their mother’s estate and denied the motion. The Appellate Court held that the entry of judgment was improper as wife’s guardian was the proper person to give consent to its entry and any representations by wife’s counsel that such a person would agree before they were appointed are not binding. In re the Marriage of Faletti v. Kasher, 2017 IL App (3d) 160323.