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In Re Wheat

OPINION FILED JANUARY 4, 1979.

IN RE TERRY WHEAT, A MINOR. — (THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PETITIONER-APPELLEE,

v.

TERRY WHEAT ET AL., RESPONDENTS-APPELLANTS.)



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. PETER F. COSTA, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE LINN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

John and Paula Wheat's judgment for divorce awarded to John sole custody of the couple's minor child, Terry Wheat. Subsequently, a petition was filed under the Juvenile Court Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 37, par. 701-1 et seq.) against John Wheat, alleging that Terry was a neglected minor and requesting that Terry be adjudicated a ward of the court.

At the conclusion of adjudicatory and dispositional hearings, in which both John and Paula Wheat participated, the trial court: (1) found Terry to be a neglected minor; (2) adjudicated her a ward of the court; and (3) awarded Terry into the custody of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

In this consolidated appeal, Paula Wheat contends: (1) she was deprived of the right to be heard at the adjudicatory hearing; (2) once the finding of neglect was entered against John Wheat, she became entitled automatically to Terry's custody, as Terry's natural mother; and (3) the trial court erred when it allegedly treated the finding of neglect entered against John Wheat as binding upon her. Terry Wheat contends that she was deprived of the right to counsel (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 37, par. 701-20) at the adjudicatory and dispositional hearings.

We affirm the trial court.

In July 1975, John and Paula Wheat obtained a judgment for divorce in the State of Illinois. In accordance with the terms of their divorce judgment, John was awarded sole custody of 14-year-old Terry Wheat. Following the divorce proceedings, Paula Wheat resided in Ironton, Missouri. John Wheat, Terry and John's second wife, Paula's sister, resided in Carpentersville, Illinois.

On December 4, 1975, a neglect petition was filed in the circuit court of Cook County requesting that Terry be adjudicated a ward of the court. The petition alleged that Terry's environment with her father was injurious to her welfare (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 37, par. 702-4(1)(b)). At the preliminary hearing conducted December 4, the public defender was appointed to represent John Wheat. John Wheat denied the allegations of the neglect petition. By agreement of the parties, the trial court awarded temporary custody of Terry to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and appointed a guardian ad litem for her. The neglect petition was then scheduled for a future adjudicatory hearing.

Paula Wheat appeared for the first time at the adjudicatory hearing held February 6, 1976. The public defender was appointed to represent Paula Wheat's interests in the proceedings, and private counsel, Francis Pistorio, was given leave to substitute his appearance, in place of that of the public defender, as John Wheat's attorney. Terry Wheat was not represented by counsel.

At the outset of the adjudicatory hearing, the State requested leave to amend the neglect petition. The original petition alleged that Terry's environment with her father was injurious to her welfare. The proposed amendment sought to modify that allegation so it would read that Terry's behavior, while in the custody of her father, was injurious to her welfare. When the attorneys representing John and Paula Wheat stated they had "no objection" to the proposed modification, the amendment was allowed. *fn1

John Wheat admitted the allegations set forth in the amended petition. The State then offered the following facts as a basis for his admission:

"Your Honor, first of all, the State would offer as evidence that the father in this case, John M. Wheat and the mother in this case, Paula Wheat were divorced.

Legal custody was awarded to the father. Since that time, the daughter, the minor Respondent in this case, Terry Wheat has resided with the father.

[S]he has indicated to the State's Attorneys' Office and to other personnel that she does not wish to live with the father and will not live with the father.

That during the time that she has lived with the father, she has not been attending school; that she has left school and gone to various shopping centers and committed actions of delinquency and committed shoplifting; and that she will not listen to her father, refuses to listen to her father.

And the father at this time feels that he can no longer control her behavior in anyway and that at this time * * * her behavior is becoming such that it is injurious to others ...


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