Refusal To Modify Divorce Judgment Not Appealable Because Of Other Pending Issues

Arthur and Shirley Susman got divorced. The divorce judgment incorporated a marital settlement agreement, which reserved two subjects to be resolved later: (1) certain tax liabilities, and (2) allocation of certain personal property.

A few months later, Arthur asked the trial court to modify the judgment. He claimed there had been a mutual mistake of fact regarding a different tax liability. The trial court denied Arthur’s request.

Arthur appealed under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 301, which allows appeals from final judgments. But the First District Illinois Appellate Court ruled that it did not have jurisdiction to consider Arthur’s appeal. The appellate court ruled that Arthur’s appeal of the order denying his request to modify the judgment was not appealable because other questions had been reserved by the trial court. Here’s how the appellate court explained it:

Here, the trial court did not resolve the allocation of the parties’ personal property and pre-2008 tax liabilities. Because the parties could not fully agree what they would divide and how they would divide it, the court reserved the issues for further
consideration, and the order was not enforceable in that specific regard …The court thus entered what is known as a bifurcated judgment pursuant to section 401(b) of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act … which authorizes a court to
reserve issues in a dissolution judgment for further consideration … Although the court’s actions might have been statutorily authorized, they did not result in a final, appealable order for the purposes of conferring jurisdiction on this court … This lack of finality regarding the dissolution action is evident from the record inasmuch as the parties continued to litigate the division of personal property.

Because the dissolution judgment was not final and appealable, the order disposing of Arthur’s motion to modify the judgment therefore cannot be considered “final.” … Arthur cannot seek to appeal an issue arising from the dissolution proceedings when others remain pending, and we must dismiss this appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The policy against avoiding piecemeal appeals compels the result in this case.

In passing, the appellate said Arthur could have appealed the “propriety of the [trial court’s original] bifurcated judgment.” But Arthur did not appeal that question, so the whole appeal was dismissed. Read the opinion, IRMO Susman, 2012 IL App (1st) 112068, by clicking here.

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