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Harris v. Spencer

AUGUST 4, 1967.

PATRICIA ANN HARRIS (NEE SPENCER) PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

BILLIE F. SPENCER, DEFENDANT. PATRICIA ANN HARRIS (NEE SPENCER) PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

BILLIE F. SPENCER, DEFENDANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of the Third Judicial Circuit of Madison County; the Hon. JAMES O. MONROE, Judge, presiding for Cause No. 66-138. Appeal from the Circuit Court of the Third Judicial Circuit of Madison County; the Hon. FRED P. SCHUMAN, Judge, presiding, for Cause No. 67-15. The judgment in Cause No. 66-138 is reversed and the judgment in Cause No. 67-15 is reversed and remanded.

MORAN, P.J.

These cases have been consolidated and involve appeals from judgments of the Circuit Court of Madison County denying the plaintiff-appellant's motion for a rehearing on an order that she deliver custody of her two minor children, born of her marriage with defendant-appellee, to him and finding her in contempt for refusing to comply with the order.

On March 14, 1962, the plaintiff was granted a divorce from the appellee and was given custody of their two minor children. Subsequently, on February 24, 1966, the appellee filed a complaint for Modification of the Decree, wherein he alleged that the appellant has become a person wholly unfit to have the custody of the children and prayed that the court modify the initial decree so that he be given custody of the children. On March 25, 1966, the trial judge entered a memorandum to the effect that: "The Court advised counsel that he would want an investigation as to the parties and the children. Counsel stipulated that any evidence received from the Probation Officer could be considered by the court as evidence." On May 27, 1966, the trial judge entered another memorandum to the effect that: "Modified decree of divorce to be agreed to by attorneys to be submitted to the Court. Cause continued for submission of the modified decree." Then, on June 20, 1966, the trial judge entered an order awarding custody of the children to the appellee, subject to specified rights in the appellant. The order recites in part that:

(T)he court having referred this matter to the Probation Office in the County of Madison and State of Illinois for investigation and report, and said Probation Office having made a report to this court, and there being no further evidence offered by either of the parties hereto . . . the decree of divorce . . . should be changed and modified. . . .

The order was signed by the trial judge and "approved as to form" by attorneys for both parties.

Appellant subsequently obtained new counsel and, on July 19, 1966, filed a motion for rehearing which, as amended on August 22, 1966, alleged that (1) no evidence was heard by the court on the question whether the appellant was a fit and proper person to have custody of the children; (2) the only evidence produced was based upon the Probation Officer's report, which contained erroneous hearsay evidence; (3) the appellant was prepared to produce witnesses to the effect that she was a good mother for the children; (4) the Probation Officer now believes and has stated that the appellant is a fit and proper person; and (5) the appellant had been inadequately represented at the hearing.

After the filing of the Motion for Rehearing, but before the court had ruled on the motion, the appellee filed a petition on August 4, 1966, for an order to show cause why the appellant should not be held in contempt for refusing to comply with the order modifying the divorce decree to the effect that the appellee have custody of the children. On August 19, 1966, this matter was heard by another judge who entered an order that:

Respondent (appellant) is found to be in contempt for failure to obey the order as confessed regarding the facts. The Court finds it would serve no useful purpose at this time to punish the respondent for contempt. Respondent is allowed to purge herself of contempt by delivering up the children as ordered by (the court).

Then on August 22, 1966, still prior to the court's ruling on the appellant's Motion for Rehearing, after the appellant reiterated her refusal to comply with the modified decree, the other judge, noting that she had previously been adjudged in contempt, fined her the sum of $500. The appellant appeals from this final order.

Subsequently, on November 4, 1966, the trial judge entered an order denying appellant's motion for a rehearing. In part, the court stated that:

On June 20, 1966, this court entered an order by consent of the attorney for the plaintiff and the attorney for the Defendant modifying the Decree of Divorce as to the custody of the minor children of said parties. . . . (T)he modified Decree was submitted to the Court approved by counsel for both parties, which the Court signed and entered on June 20, 1966, as a Consent Decree modifying the original Decree.

That by reason of the fact that there was no evidence offered to show any change in conditions since said modified Decree was filed, this Court denies the Motion for Rehearing, which the court construed as a Motion to Vacate which was filed on July 19, 1966. (Emphasis added.)

The Appellant also appeals from this final order.

These cases raise two questions for our ...


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