Marriage of Logston, In re, No. 58631

CourtSupreme Court of Illinois
Writing for the CourtRYAN
Citation82 Ill.Dec. 633,103 Ill.2d 266,469 N.E.2d 167
Decision Date20 September 1984
Docket NumberNo. 58631
Parties, 82 Ill.Dec. 633 In re MARRIAGE OF Kate C. LOGSTON, Appellee, and Eugene C. Logston, Appellant.

Page 167

469 N.E.2d 167
103 Ill.2d 266, 82 Ill.Dec. 633
In re MARRIAGE OF Kate C. LOGSTON, Appellee,
and
Eugene C. Logston, Appellant.
No. 58631.
Supreme Court of Illinois.
Sept. 20, 1984.

Page 169

[103 Ill.2d 271] [82 Ill.Dec. 635] Richard G. Reed, P.C., Belleville (Richard G. Reed and Rodney W. Thompson, Belleville, of counsel), for appellant.

Angelia Blackman-Donovan, Belleville, for appellee.

RYAN, Chief Justice:

The central issue in this case is whether our personal [103 Ill.2d 272] property exemption statute (Ill.Rev.Stat.1983, ch. 110, par. 12-1001) constitutes a defense to a contempt order that was issued to enforce a maintenance obligation in a dissolution-of-marriage case. Eugene Logston appeals from orders of the circuit court of St. Clair County that were issued during proceedings instituted by his former wife, Kate Logston. To enforce the maintenance provision of their dissolution-of-marriage judgment, Kate initiated contempt proceedings against Eugene. Eugene answered Kate's petition for rule to show cause and at the same time filed a petition that sought termination of the maintenance payment. In a March 1983 order, the trial court determined a maintenance arrearage, entered judgment for that amount, and found Eugene in contempt of court for his failure to pay. The court also denied Eugene's request to modify the maintenance award.

Eugene filed a motion to reconsider this order. As a defense to the contempt finding, he claimed that all of his monthly income--which consists of social security, a private pension, and a disability insurance benefit--is exempt from judgment under section 12-1001 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Ill.Rev.Stat.1983, ch. 110, par. 12-1001). The statute he cited exempts specific personal property, as well as a debtor's right to receive certain types of income, from "judgment, attachment or distress for rent." In an order issued in May 1983, the trial court rejected this defense, denied Eugene's motion to reconsider, and held that section 12-1001 is invalid because its phrase "exempt from judgment" is unconstitutionally vague. Because a statute of this State was held to be invalid, Eugene appealed directly to this court pursuant to Rule 302(a)(1) (87 Ill.2d R. 302(a)(1)).

He now raises three issues for our review. The first is whether section 12-1001 of the Code of Civil Procedure constitutes a valid defense to the contempt order. The second question is whether the trial court abused its [103 Ill.2d 273] discretion when it found wilful failure to pay maintenance and, as a result, held Eugene in contempt. Finally, we must decide whether the trial court abused its discretion by denying Eugene's request to terminate the maintenance obligation.

Eugene and Kate Logston were married in 1966, and they resided together until eight months before their marriage was dissolved in January 1981. No children were born during the marriage. At the time of the divorce, Eugene was 52 years old and had been retired, due to poor health, for four years. Kate was 50 years old and had not worked since 1974.

Just before the dissolution of marriage, the Logstons owned their marital home, the house next door, and one vacant lot. Their total equity in the real estate was $42,000. They also owned stock valued at $800, automobiles, and various home furnishings. Kate had no income, and Eugene received a total of $813.32 per month in payments from social security, a private pension, and disability insurance.

The dissolution-of-marriage judgment allowed each party to keep the furnishings, automobile, and personal effects that were

Page 170

[82 Ill.Dec. 636] in his or her possession at the time the judgment was entered. Kate was awarded the stock, but she retained no interest in Eugene's right to receive pension or disability benefits. Instead, Eugene was ordered to pay her $221.50 per month as maintenance, which is the same monthly amount that the court had ordered him to pay as temporary maintenance in December 1980. Of the $42,000 equity in real property, the parties agreed that Kate would pay $21,000 to Eugene in exchange for quitclaim deeds conveying to her his interest in the property. Kate was allowed to deduct from the $21,000 certain sums that Eugene owed her, so her actual payment to him was $16,887.

From December 1980 through May 1983, Eugene [103 Ill.2d 274] paid no maintenance to Kate. However, in August 1981, the trial court found a $1,993.50 arrearage, which represented two months of the predissolution temporary maintenance and seven months of the permanent maintenance. The court reduced this amount to judgment, and, during the next year, a total of $1,937.40 was paid to Kate through garnishment proceedings against Eugene's disability insurer. When the court issued the May 1983 order from which Eugene now appeals, the total arrearage had grown to $4,707.60, with Eugene being ordered to either pay $4,043.10 within 30 days or serve a jail sentence of not more than six months.

At the time of the hearing, Eugene was still unable to work. He had remarried, and his new wife taught school but would soon retire. For the present, however, she earned a net monthly income from teaching of $1,457, plus an average of $85 per month from part-time work. Eugene resided with her in a house that she owned.

Eugene's petition, as well as his answers to interrogatories, indicate that his income had decreased since his divorce from Kate. However, further examination during the hearing disclosed that his monthly income actually had increased since the dissolution of marriage and now totaled $922.44.

Eugene's financial statement indicates that, at the time he petitioned to modify the maintenance, he owned no real estate but did possess a small amount of cash and $500 of equity in a motorcycle. He had owned a 1978 Chevrolet truck, valued at under $3,000, but had signed the title over to his present wife to help her obtain a loan for a recreational vehicle. Concerning the $16,887 that Kate paid him for his interest in their real estate, he testified that he used about $5,500 to repay debts and spent the remainder during a trip to California.

[103 Ill.2d 275] The financial statement shows that Eugene reported monthly expenses of $80 for rent; $185 for utilities; $365 for automobile expenses; $150 for food; $70 for clothing and laundry; and $160 for recreation, gifts, hobbies, and the costs of volunteer work. The statement also lists monthly obligations on installment contracts which total $816.47. During Eugene's testimony at the hearing, it became apparent that some monthly expenses that he had listed on his written financial statement were costs shared with his present wife, rather than expenses that he alone incurred each month. His testimony revealed that the $816.47 in monthly installment obligations represented payments on an automobile, a motorcycle, a recreational vehicle, and a $7,500 loan obtained to remodel his wife's kitchen. The trial judge and both parties' counsel questioned Eugene about these expenses, but his responses failed to clarify whether he actually paid each of these amounts each month or whether, instead, his wife shared or fully paid the installment debts. Eugene testified to extensive health problems. However, his responses to cross-examination revealed that health insurance fully paid his hospital expenses, and that Medicare paid a portion of his other medical and dental costs.

When Kate Logston testified, she was unemployed and had not worked since her divorce from Eugene. She still owned the two houses; her invalid mother lived with her in one, and for the other she received $350 per month in rent. Mortgage and insurance costs for the houses, which Kate had reported as $300 just before the divorce, now totaled $360. She testified that

Page 171

[82 Ill.Dec. 637] her mother received a $600 monthly pension, which was available to help Kate pay expenses. Because her mother required extensive care, Kate could not obtain a job that would require her to leave home for more than a few hours at a time. Kate conceded, however, that she had not sought work that she could do in her home.

[103 Ill.2d 276] We first address section 12-1001 of our Code of Civil Procedure (Ill.Rev.Stat.1983, ch. 110, par. 12-1001) and the question whether Eugene may use the exempt status of his income as a defense to the contempt order. Eugene contends that the order will force him to pay maintenance from income that the legislature intended to protect for the debtor's benefit. In his view, the trial court used its contempt power as an alternate means of enforcing Kate's judgment for the maintenance arrearage. Eugene therefore insists that the contempt order, if enforced, will circumvent the legislative scheme. Kate responds that the exemption statute, with its phrase "exempt from judgment," is unconstitutionally vague and, as such, is not a defense to the contempt order. Alternatively, she claims that section 12-1001 simply does not apply to a marital obligation set out in a dissolution-of-marriage judgment.

Examining the statute itself, we see that section 12-1001 indeed refers to each source of Eugene's income:

"The following personal property, owned by the debtor, is exempt from judgment, attchment or distress for rent:

* * *

* * *

(g) The debtor's right to receive:

(1) a social security benefit * * *;

* * *

* * *

(3) a disability, illness, or unemployment benefit;

* * *

* * *

(5) a payment under any pension plans or contracts, to the extent necessary for the support of the debtor and any dependent of the debtor * * *." (Ill.Rev.Stat.1983, ch. 110, par. 12-1001.)

Since Eugene's social security, pension, and disability insurance benefits are clearly listed in the statute, we must decide whether the language protects against a [103 Ill.2d 277] contempt order issued to enforce a maintenance obligation. As noted below, the ambiguity of the words "exempt from judgment" used...

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341 practice notes
  • Circle Management, LLC v. Olivier, No. 1-07-0621.
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • December 28, 2007
    ...to pay money through contempt, this power is "limited to cases of wilful refusal to obey the court's order." In re Marriage of Logston, 103 Ill.2d 266, 285, 82 Ill.Dec. 633, 469 N.E.2d 167 (1984). Accordingly, "`[i]t is not a contempt of court to fail to pay money which one neither has nor ......
  • In re Marriage of Nettleton and Terrell, No. 2-03-0362.
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • June 4, 2004
    ...to secure obedience of its prior order. Berto, 344 Ill.App.3d at 712, 279 Ill.Dec. 482, 800 N.E.2d 550, citing In re Marriage of Logston, 103 Ill.2d 266, 289, 82 Ill.Dec. 633, 469 N.E.2d 167 (1984). Upon the trial court's receipt of the tendered arrearage, respondent would be in compliance.......
  • In re Peake, Case No. 18-16544
    • United States
    • United States Bankruptcy Courts. Seventh Circuit. U.S. Bankruptcy Court — Northern District of Illinois
    • August 15, 2018
    ...forcibly seize the judgment debtor's vehicle in order to sell it in satisfaction of the City's judgment. See In re Marriage of Logston , 103 Ill.2d 266, 82 Ill.Dec. 633, 469 N.E.2d 167, 172 (1984) ("If the judgment goes unpaid, it may be enforced through the remedy of execution, whereby as ......
  • Barnett v. Stern, No. 85 C 144.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Northern District of Illinois)
    • November 30, 1988
    ...and still are, general unsecured creditors, nothing more.5 See Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 110, 93 BR 976 § 12-111; see In re Marriage of Logston, 103 Ill.2d 266, 278, 82 Ill.Dec. 633, 469 N.E.2d 167 (1984); In re Arrow General Contractors of Roselle, Ill., 41 B.R. 481, In two cases dating back more ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
342 cases
  • Circle Management, LLC v. Olivier, No. 1-07-0621.
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • December 28, 2007
    ...to pay money through contempt, this power is "limited to cases of wilful refusal to obey the court's order." In re Marriage of Logston, 103 Ill.2d 266, 285, 82 Ill.Dec. 633, 469 N.E.2d 167 (1984). Accordingly, "`[i]t is not a contempt of court to fail to pay money which one neither has nor ......
  • In re Marriage of Nettleton and Terrell, No. 2-03-0362.
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • June 4, 2004
    ...to secure obedience of its prior order. Berto, 344 Ill.App.3d at 712, 279 Ill.Dec. 482, 800 N.E.2d 550, citing In re Marriage of Logston, 103 Ill.2d 266, 289, 82 Ill.Dec. 633, 469 N.E.2d 167 (1984). Upon the trial court's receipt of the tendered arrearage, respondent would be in compliance.......
  • In re Peake, Case No. 18-16544
    • United States
    • United States Bankruptcy Courts. Seventh Circuit. U.S. Bankruptcy Court — Northern District of Illinois
    • August 15, 2018
    ...forcibly seize the judgment debtor's vehicle in order to sell it in satisfaction of the City's judgment. See In re Marriage of Logston , 103 Ill.2d 266, 82 Ill.Dec. 633, 469 N.E.2d 167, 172 (1984) ("If the judgment goes unpaid, it may be enforced through the remedy of execution, whereby as ......
  • Barnett v. Stern, No. 85 C 144.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Northern District of Illinois)
    • November 30, 1988
    ...and still are, general unsecured creditors, nothing more.5 See Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 110, 93 BR 976 § 12-111; see In re Marriage of Logston, 103 Ill.2d 266, 278, 82 Ill.Dec. 633, 469 N.E.2d 167 (1984); In re Arrow General Contractors of Roselle, Ill., 41 B.R. 481, In two cases dating back more ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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