Standard of reasonableness: Illinois wife loses alimony appeal

Last month we covered a high asset divorce case involving a wife who was awarded 20 percent of her husband’s bonuses between $50,001 and $100,000. The wife recently appealed her case calling the court’s division of her husband’s assets an “abuse of discretion.”

In a decision that became final today, an appeals court found that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in not awarding the wife any of her husband’s bonuses above $100,000.

Divorce courts in Illinois have broad discretion in dividing property and allocating maintenance awards. Appeals courts generally do not overturn maintenance awards absent a clear abuse of discretion, which is defined as an “arbitrary, fanciful or unreasonable” ruling. This is a high burden for an appellant to meet, especially because unreasonableness is defined as a decision that is so outside of the norm that “no reasonable person could find as the trial court did.”

The wife failed to meet this high burden in her appeal. The appeals court found that the trial court very seriously considered the finances of the parties and the standard of living established during the marriage.

In awarding the wife none of her husband’s bonuses after $100,000, the court encouraged the husband to continue his productivity at work so that he would enjoy a greater portion of his earnings. This rationale did not fall below the high burden of reasonableness, which is why the wife’s appeal was denied.

Source: Dowd v. Dowd, 2013 IL App (3d) 120140, June 20, 2013

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