APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Du Page County; the Hon.
BRUCE R. FAWELL, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE DIXON DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Plaintiff and counterdefendant Ingeborg Marianne Strand filed a complaint for divorce on the ground of mental cruelty. Her husband Ronald R. Strand counterclaimed on the same ground. Both asked for custody of their children, a boy now 9 and a girl now 11. The Circuit Court of Du Page County found the wife guilty of mental cruelty, found that both parents were fit and proper parents and that it was in the best interest of the children that their custody be awarded to the husband. The wife appeals only from that portion of the judgment awarding custody.
Ingeborg Marianne Strand and Ronald R. Strand were married at Karlsruhe, West Germany, on the 10th day of October, 1964. They lived together as husband and wife from that date until on or about October of 1974. Two children were born to them, Angelique whose date of birth is the 19th day of March, 1965, and Richard, whose date of birth is the 16th day of May, 1967.
After hearing the testimony of the witnesses, the court had a conversation with the children in chambers upon stipulation of both of the attorneys. The attorneys also presented their individual client's plans if they were awarded custody of the children.
Ronald Strand, under section 60, merely testified as to financial matters and they are not an issue in this appeal.
Ingeborg Marianne Strand testified that two children were born of the marriage of she and her husband, that they were minor children and that she was a fit and proper person to have their care; that she was employed and worked as a budget administrator. That at the present time her hours of employment were 9:30 a.m. until 3 p.m.; that she went to work at the insistance of her husband; that most of her free time was spent with the children, playing with them and taking them places, to museums, ballgames, parks and to the zoo, or if they do not go somewhere, that she plays with them at home and helps them with their homework; that Mr. Strand does not participate in these activities with her and the children and instead he watches television; that her normal, daily routine is that for her to wake up, fix the children their breakfast, make their school lunches, lay out their clothes, at which time the children leave for school and she leaves for work. After school she helps with homework, plays games and prepares supper, and in the evening, after the children are in bed, she does her housework. Her weekends are filled with taking the children horseback riding, grocery shopping, doing laundry or playing with the children. She does the light housework and the heavy housework is done by a lady who comes in. Her husband's discipline of the children consists of beating them with the buckle end of a belt and several years ago he struck their daughter in the eye and injured her. The children attend school regularly and have excellent grades. The children attend church and Sunday School, are learning German as a second language, and she has introduced the children to music.
In October 1974, she visited her husband at Fort Leavenworth, made suggestion with respect to a reconciliation (although there had been no marital separation) and she suggested that the two of them see a marriage counselor, a Dr. Robert Randall. She saw Dr. Randall on five or six occasions but her husband has continued to go to see him. Her husband had previously seen a psychiatrist in Madison, Wisconsin, for about a year and that Mr. Strand had told her that the psychiatrist told him that his problem boiled down to the way his mother treated him when he was a child.
Under cross-examination she indicated that she knew a David Silva, that he was a co-worker with her and that his present home telephone number was 366-2061. She had called him regarding her job on one occasion in July 1974, and also had accompanied him and her parents to a movie of a soccer game during July 1974. During the time her husband was at camp, from August 5 through December 13, 1974, she could not estimate how many times David Silva was at her home but it was probably around 20 times. He mostly came on Saturdays or Sundays to play with the children and on a few occasions he was there during the week.
David Silva drives a maroon Ford, stayed overnight on two occasions, once when he helped clean out the house because of a flood and the second time in order to baby-sit with the children early in the morning so that she could see a doctor. She had only been with David socially on one occasion and that was for her birthday party which she took David to. She picked David up at 8 p.m. and she returned home after dropping David off at his home at approximately 4 a.m. During her husband's absence, Mr. Silva took her and her children to six soccer games and one baseball game at Wrigley Field and also attended one openhouse with her and the children at the children's school. She took the children to Sunday School when Mr. Strand was at camp but since his return he has taken the children to Sunday School. She goes to a different church. She kept going to her old church until Christmastime and then, at the end of January, she started to go to the Faith Congregational Church. When Mr. Silva would visit the children he would arrive during the daylight hours and play with the children in the front yard which was open and obvious to all the neighbors and people who were passing by. He would also park his car in the driveway or on the street, where all the neighbors could see him leave. From September until February her working hours were 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and she would arrive home at 5 p.m. These hours continued until January 1975 because she could not find a person who would take care of the children between the time they got out of school and the time she got home from work. She had a previous arrangement with Mrs. Provensano to leave a key at her home for the children to pick up and go home. This arrangement with Mrs. Provensano went on until the end of November. She had discussed it with her husband and he did not like the arrangement because the children were alone. She then made arrangements with Mrs. Wick and the children would stay with her until she arrived home. Mrs. Wick told her at the end of February, that she did not want to watch the children anymore and that is when she asked for the new hours at work so that she could be home with the children when they got home from school.
The plaintiff then called Hildegard Ball as a witness on her behalf and Mrs. Ball testified that she works with Mrs. Strand and rides back and forth to work with her and on cross-examination, Mrs. Ball testified that the children were nice kids, were courteous and that she felt that this conduct was the result of both Mr. and Mrs. Strand's raising of the children.
The plaintiff then closed her case.
The defendant called as his first witness, Eileen Cestone, a neighbor. She testified that she has lived next door to the Strands all the time that the Strands have lived there and that she has three children, one age five, one age three and a baby 6 1/2 months. Mr. Strand was gone approximately four months last year and during that time she had an opportunity to observe a gentleman arrive and leave the Strand home in a maroon Ford automobile. She determined that his name was David and that he was at the Strand residence approximately six times per week. He would arrive during the evening hours and leave at different times. On the average, two or three times per week, he would leave between the hours of 4 and 6 a.m. She further testified that Mr. Strand was ...