It has long been my belief that going to trial in a divorce case is the equivalent of rolling the dice in Las Vegas. You never know what you are going to get. In a case decided by the Illinois Appellate Court on November 9, 2005, a young couple who had been married for a total of two years decided to get divorced and “roll the dice” at trial. The basic facts were as follows: Stephanie was employed full-time, earning approximately $900.00 every two weeks. Jason was not employed, but attended Palmer College of Chiropractic, studying to be a Chiropractor. Jason was receiving approximately $5,000.00 for living expenses per trimester at school, which had to be repaid as part of his student loans. Stephanie and Jason had been married for seven of Jason’s trimesters at school, during which time Jason accumulated $140,000.00 in student loans. Stephanie and Jason were being supported by Stephanie’s paychecks and supplemented by Jason’s student loans. Stephanie helped contribute to approximately $8,000.00 of Jason’s chiropractic expenses. When the parties planned to get divorced, Stephanie withdrew $4,200.00 from the parties’ joint checking account and withdrew $7,200.00 from the parties’ Morgan Stanley brokerage account. Jason was driving the 2001 Chevy Malibu valued at $8,000.00, and Stephanie was driving the 2002 Yukon automobile valued at $23,000.00. Both cars were given to the parties by Stephanie’s parents. Finally, in addition to Jason’s $140,000.00 in student loans, Jason had additional credit card debt of $14,000.00.
The parties had no children, no real estate, and no retirement savings. Both parties decided to go to trial, rather than resolve this dispute between themselves. At the conclusion of the trial, the trial court divided the assets and debts as follows: Stephanie received the Morgan Stanley brokerage account proceeds, the Yukon automobile, and other items of personal property. Jason received the parties’ Chevy Malibu automobile and was required to pay his $14,000.00 in credit card debt, plus his $140,000.00 in student loans. In addition, even though Stephanie never requested maintenance from Jason, the court also required Jason to pay Stephanie an additional $18,000.00 in maintenance over the next two years at the rate of $750.00 per month. What? You’ve got to be kidding, right?
What was the court’s reasoning? Both the trial court and the Illinois Appellate Court considered various factors in dividing the marital estate and requiring the payment of maintenance. These factors included the contribution each party made to accumulation of the marital assets and debts, the ability of each party to accumulate assets in the future, and the relative economic circumstances of each party at the time of the divorce. Since Jason was about to become a Chiropractor, his prospects for future earnings were superior to Stephanie’s prospects for future earnings. Also, Stephanie helped support Jason through seven trimesters of Chiropractic school, which gave the court reasons to make this property distribution and maintenance award.
In summary, you never ever know how a trial court will decide the merits of your divorce and property dispute. The best advice your attorney can offer you during this difficult time is to make every reasonable effort to settle, settle, settle!
Contact the Law Offices of Michael P. Doman, Ltd. for your divorce attorney needs.