In re Doman (IL)

Summary: Where decedent died during the pendency of a divorce, after the dissolution of marriage order was entered but before the estate was divided, wife was entitled to be named an heir at law of the decedent, because to deny both heirship and divorce settlement would be unjust.

In re Doman, 2012 IL App (4th) 120123 (4th Dist. 2012).

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Sara Doman, and the decedent, Mark Doman, were divorcing when he died intestate.  The parties had been granted a dissolution judgment on grounds only, reserving ancillary issues for a later date.  The decedent passed before these issues were resolved and the case was dismissed by the trial court. 

Sara Doman filed a request to be named administrator of the probate estate for the decedent, which the decedent’s daughters, Aimee and Bethany objected to.  The probate court ruled that the divorce court did not dismiss the dissolution, but only dismissed the cause regarding ancillary issues.  Therefore, it held that Sara Doman was not an heir at law of decedent.  Sara Doman appealed, arguing that the dismissal was for the dissolution proceeding in its entirety and, therefore, the parties were placed in the same position as if the proceedings were never initiated. 


Reversed and Remanded. The appellate court interpreted the trial court’s order as a dismissal of the divorce proceeding in its entirety. The court stated that, “to find otherwise would lead to the unjust result of depriving [Sara Doman] of both her marital right to a division of property in divorce and her spousal right to property under the Probate Act of 1975.”  The court also stated that, “a petition for dissolution advances a single claim, a request for dissolution of the parties’ marriage,” and, “[t]herefore, issues raised in a dissolution-of-marriage case are ancillary to the cause of action, not separate claims.” 

Regarding the finality of “on grounds only” judgments, the court held, “generally only a judgment that does not reserve any issues for later determination is final and appealable.”  Because of this reasoning the court found the dismissal restored Sara Doman to the same position as if she had never filed the petition for dissolution of the parties’ marriage.  Therefore, she was indeed the surviving spouse and entitled to that share of the estate.

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By: ATG Underwriting Department | Posted on: Thu, 12/06/2012 - 10:19am