Suh v. Suh, 2-17-0239

CourtUnited States Appellate Court of Illinois
Writing for the CourtPRESIDING JUSTICE HUDSON delivered the judgment of the court.
Citation2018 IL App (2d) 170239 -U
PartiesIn re MARRIAGE OF MICHELLE SUH, Petitioner-Appellant, and JASON SUH, Respondent-Appellee.
Docket NumberNo. 2-17-0239,2-17-0239
Decision Date07 June 2017

2018 IL App (2d) 170239-U

In re MARRIAGE OF MICHELLE SUH, Petitioner-Appellant,
JASON SUH, Respondent-Appellee.

No. 2-17-0239


June 7, 2017

NOTICE: This order was filed under Supreme Court Rule 23 and may not be cited as precedent by any party except in the limited circumstances allowed under Rule 23(e)(1).

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County.

No. 14-D-228

Honorable Neal W. Cerne, Judge, Presiding.

PRESIDING JUSTICE HUDSON delivered the judgment of the court.
Justices Hutchinson and Zenoff concurred in the judgment.


¶ 1 Held: (1) The trial court's valuation of respondent's equity interest in his professional practice was not against the manifest weight of the evidence as it fell within the range of competent evidence presented at trial; and (2) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in awarding petitioner permanent maintenance of $12,000 per month plus additional maintenance equal to 33% of respondent's annual income between his annual base salary of $442,000 and a cap of $540,000.

¶ 2 Petitioner, Michelle Suh, appeals from the judgment of the circuit court of Du Page County dissolving her marriage to respondent, Jason Suh. On appeal, petitioner raises two principle issues. First, she contends that the trial court erred in its division of the marital estate,

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in particular as it relates to the valuation of respondent's equity interest in his professional practice. Second, she challenges the maintenance award set by the trial court. We affirm.1


¶ 4 Petitioner and respondent married on February 26, 1993. Two children were born of the marriage, both of whom were emancipated at the time the judgment of dissolution was entered. The parties physically separated in March 2012, when respondent moved out of the marital residence. At that time, respondent began to voluntarily pay petitioner support of $10,000 per month. Petitioner filed a petition for dissolution of marriage on February 5, 2014. Both parties were 49 years old when the petition was filed. Prior to trial, the court entered an order requiring respondent to pay petitioner $10,800 per month as and for temporary maintenance. The matter proceeded to trial over various dates in December 2016. The following evidence is taken from the transcript of the trial and the common law record.

¶ 5 Petitioner has a bachelor's degree in pharmacy. Petitioner worked as a pharmacist for the first three years of the marriage, mostly part time. After 1996, petitioner devoted her time and efforts principally to raising the parties' children, working outside the home for only two brief periods. Specifically, from August 2012 through March 2013, petitioner was the manager for C2, a college preparatory education center, earning $900 biweekly. The parties' federal tax return for 2013 indicates that petitioner's wages that year were $13,113.2 In addition, for four

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months in 2016, petitioner taught at her church, earning $70 per week. During this time, petitioner maintained her pharmacy license, but placed it on "inactive" status in 2014 or 2015.

¶ 6 At the time of trial, petitioner was unemployed. Petitioner testified that she is unable to work because of health problems, including fibromyalgia, Sjogren's Disease, irritable bowel syndrome, migraine headaches, osteoporosis, a frozen shoulder, and an "upper GI issue."3 Petitioner's symptoms from these conditions include fatigue, joint and muscle pain, dry eyes, and dry mouth. Petitioner treats with various medical professionals and goes for physical therapy and acupuncture. Petitioner testified that her health issues impact her ability to drive and engage in physical activities, such as exercising, walking, and shopping. Although petitioner has considered herself disabled since at least 2012, she has never applied for disability benefits. Petitioner testified that she contacted the agency that administers disability benefits, but the application process "involves a lot of procedure" and the agency is "picky." Petitioner further indicated that the benefits she would receive would be minimal.

¶ 7 Petitioner testified that her sole source of income is the support she receives from respondent, which, at the time of trial, was $10,800 per month. She testified that her monthly expenses are approximately $17,000 per month. Petitioner makes up for the monthly shortfall using funds from an investment account.

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¶ 8 Respondent is a medical doctor, specializing in oncology. In 2005, respondent was hired as a staff physician with Joliet Oncology Hematology Associates, Ltd. (Joliet Oncology). When respondent first became employed by Joliet Oncology, his annual salary was $250,000. On January 1, 2009, respondent was elevated to a partner at Joliet Oncology. In conjunction with his promotion, respondent and Joliet Oncology executed a Stock Purchase Agreement (Stock Agreement) and a Senior Physician Medical Employment Agreement (Employment Agreement). In 2016, respondent assumed the role as Principal Investigator of Clinical Trials for Joliet Oncology.

¶ 9 Respondent testified that all of the doctors who work at Joliet Oncology own stock in the practice. At the time of trial, there were nine partners in Joliet Oncology, and respondent's equity interest in the professional practice was 11.11%. Respondent testified that he had to buy in his equity interest at a cost of $1.29 million. Respondent paid the buy-in cost out of his income over a period of five years. Respondent testified that although his yearly earnings increased after he became a partner in 2009, any amounts over $250,000 were used to pay the buy-in fee for the partnership. Respondent testified that his take-home pay did not increase substantially until 2013, when he paid off the buy-in fee and became a full partner.

¶ 10 On December 27, 2011, Joliet Oncology entered into a Professional Services Agreement with Provena Mercy Medical Center (now known as Presence Mercy Medical Center (Presence)). Pursuant to the Professional Services Agreement, medical locations of Joliet Oncology were converted to provider-based locations of Presence so as to provide Presence the professional adult oncology services practitioners it required to meet the needs of the residents in Presence's service area. The Professional Services Agreement contains a "grant of exclusivity" whereby Presence agrees not to contract with or allow any other person or entity to provide any

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adult oncology services at any other location operated by Presence within a radius of 20 miles centered on each practice location. The Professional Services Agreement between Joliet Oncology and Presence was set to expire at the end of 2016, but, as of the time of trial, negotiations to extend it were ongoing. Respondent testified that both his Employment Agreement with Joliet Oncology and the Professional Services Agreement with Presence contain covenants not to compete.

¶ 11 Respondent testified that he is paid biweekly and his salary consists of his base wages plus bonus income and checks from other partners for their buy-in costs. Respondent reported gross W-2 income of $283,560 in 2010 and $303,852 in 2011. In 2012, the parties reported wages on their federal tax return in the amount of $1,176,646. Of that amount $760,000 represented respondent's gross W-2 income and the rest represented respondent's share of a one-time sale of assets to Presence. In 2012, respondent also had $40,525 of "miscellaneous income," which respondent attributed to speaking engagements. Respondent reported gross W-2 income of $667,998 in 2013, $551,854 in 2014, and $676,998 in 2015. Additionally, in 2013, 2014, and 2015, respondent reported business profit of $7,313, $8,287, and $9,625, respectively, from speaking engagements. Respondent's November 2016 financial affidavit reflects that his monthly employment earnings at that time were $36,833 per month.

¶ 12 P.J. Sidhu and Erin Hollis testified regarding the value of respondent's equity interest in Joliet Oncology. Sidhu, Joliet Oncology's administrator, testified that the practice was established in 1981 as a freestanding, community-based and physician-owned private clinic. Sidhu began working for Joliet Oncology around 2001. As Joliet Oncology's administrator, he is responsible for the general day-to-day operations of the practice. Sidhu has an MBA from an American university and a "Master of Commerce" degree from a university in India. Sidhu also

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has a law degree from an Indian university, but he is not authorized to practice law in the United States.

¶ 13 Sidhu testified that Joliet Oncology has offices in Joliet, Morris, New Lenox, and Bourbonnais and operates pursuant to the Professional Services Agreement with Presence. Under that agreement, Joliet Oncology sold its entire drug inventory to Presence and operates its offices in Joliet and Morris as Presence-identified outpatient facilities. Sidhu further testified that under the Professional Services Agreement, Presence has the right to approve all of Joliet Oncology's physicians, review all of the services provided by Joliet Oncology, and make all decisions regarding operation of the managed sites. Sidhu identified a picture of Joliet Oncology's building in Joliet. He noted that the facility used to bear the Joliet Oncology name, but now displays signage with Presence's name. He acknowledged that a banner displayed above Presence's name congratulates Joliet Oncology for receiving the 2016 Clinical Trials Participation Award.

¶ 14 Sidhu confirmed that respondent was invited to become a partner at Joliet Oncology in January 2009. Sidhu testified that once a physician is invited to join the partnership, a "buy-in" amount must be calculated. The buy-in amount, which Sidhu described as "the value *** put on the practice," is comprised of two components—a pre-tax component and a post-tax component. The pre-tax component consists of accounts receivable and...

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