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In Re Marriage of Soraparu





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. William Peterson, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied October 9, 1986.

Respondent, James Soraparu, appeals from an order of the circuit court of Cook County granting custody of his son, Joseph Soraparu, to his wife, Laura. Respondent also appeals the trial court's order directing him to pay a $500 fee to the guardian ad litem, and its order finding him $300 in arrears in child support.

Laura and James were married in Chicago on January 5, 1979. One child, Joseph, was born to the marriage on February 9, 1980. On March 19, 1982, Laura Soraparu petitioned the circuit court to dissolve her marriage to James, alleging that he was guilty of mental cruelty, and requested various forms of relief including custody of their son, Joseph. James answered and counterpetitioned, denying the allegations of mental cruelty. He also challenged Laura's request to receive temporary custody of Joseph.

On March 29, 1982, at Laura's request, the court entered a restraining order and a permanent injunction against James enjoining him from physically harming or harassing either Laura or Joseph. The court also awarded temporary custody of Joseph to Laura at that time.

On April 20, 1982, the circuit court ordered James to pay Laura temporary child support in the amount of "20% net from all sources of income." In addition, the court granted visitation privileges to James.

At a hearing on October 29, 1984, the trial court found that the grounds for mental cruelty had been established against James. Also at the hearing, the trial court, on its own motion, put a ceiling on the amount of child support James was required to pay. The court modified its previous order by requiring James to pay "$40 a week or 20% of his net salary whichever is greater." The court stated that the order was only temporary and would be reviewed at a later date. The record reveals that although James' attorney initially suggested that a hearing be held to determine James' financial ability to pay the increased amount, no formal objection to the court's order was ever made. James' attorney agreed to advise him to begin paying the increased amount. No further challenge to the court's order was made by either James or his attorney.

On January 28, 1985, the child custody hearing began and was vigorously contested. The court heard testimony from both Laura and James, as well as from Laura's father, Herbert Brown; James' fiancee, Rita Dunn; and Mario Accomando, James' co-worker. Much of the testimony was predictably contradictory.

James testified that he was 25 years old, and was employed as a real estate agent, working solely on commission. He lived in a one-bedroom condominium in a Chicago suburb. James stated that during the marriage he supported and cared for his family and that they "never went hungry or were without a roof over their heads." When the child was small, James stated that he bathed him, changed his diapers, and fed him. James further testified that he loved Joey and considered himself to be a fit and proper parent.

James expressed concern over Laura's baby-sitting arrangements, contending that Joey was constantly being moved around, staying either at Laura's mother's home, her brother's apartment, or with her boyfriend. He also stated that whenever he went to pick Joey up for visitation, Joey was "sick, cut, or bleeding." James testified that Laura did not dress the child properly, and recounted an incident when Laura sent Joey out in the snow wearing gym shoes. He also claimed that Laura dressed Joey in clothes that were too small and which cut off his circulation.

James also testified that he had filed two complaints with the Department of Children and Family Services regarding his concerns over Joey's welfare. He admitted that both complaints were investigated by the Department, and that the allegations were found to be without merit. James further stated that he had sent several letters to the guardian ad litem, complaining about the way in which Laura was taking care of Joey. The guardian ad litem, however, never responded to James' letter.

Laura testified that she was 25 years old and lived in an apartment in Chicago. She stated that she and Joey occupied the apartment, and that Joey had his own room. Laura testified that she had been employed for the last three years as a claims adjuster, and that during her employment she received two promotions and six raises. She worked 35 hours per week from 5 p.m. until midnight. Laura told the court that she chose those hours so that she could spend more time with Joey during the day. She anticipated that she would be changing her working hours once Joey began school.

Laura further testified that since her separation from James, she had been the one to provide for most of Joey's needs. She takes Joey to the doctor at least twice a year, enrolls him in "mini camp" programs and other preschool activities at the YMCA, regularly bathes and clothes Joey, feeds him, plays with him, and takes him on vacation. Laura testified that James was very unconcerned about Joey's welfare during their marriage, and stated that he even refused to give her money to take Joey to the doctor. She also asserted that James never bathed Joey or changed his diapers and, generally speaking, gave Joey very little attention.

Laura testified that since the separation, she had noticed that Joey returned home from his visits with his father in poor physical and emotional condition, experiencing headaches, stomachaches, was "hyper" and tired. She also testified that during their marriage she was physically abused by James, and that since the separation she and the other members of her family had received harassing phone calls from James. Laura stated that James had threatened to harm both her and Joey. She also stated that she had to borrow money from her family and boyfriend in order to pay her bills. Laura testified that James was ...

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