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10/09/87 In Re Marriage of Randall S. Blanchard

October 9, 1987



Petitioner-Appellee, and JEANNIE K. BLANCHARD,


514 N.E.2d 1208, 162 Ill. App. 3d 202, 113 Ill. Dec. 197 1987.IL.1521

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Marion County; the Hon. Arthur G. Henken, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE HARRISON delivered the opinion of the court. WELCH and LEWIS, JJ., concur.


Respondent, Jeannie K. Blanchard (now Jeannie K. Yount), appeals from a post-dissolution order of the circuit court of Marion County terminating her visitation rights. Respondent contends the court's determination that the visitation seriously disturbed the children's emotional health is against the manifest weight of the evidence. For the reasons which follow, we reverse and remand.

Respondent and petitioner, Randall S. Blanchard, were married on January 26, 1974. Three children were born to the marriage: Donna, born July 11, 1975; Samantha, born March 8, 1977; and Nicholas, born September 21, 1978. The family lived in Salem, Illinois. The marriage was dissolved by a judgment entered on December 6, 1979. This judgment incorporated an agreement of the parties that petitioner would receive custody of the three children with respondent to have "reasonable visitation." No time periods for visitation were set out in the judgment. On April 3, 1985, respondent filed a petition alleging petitioner had denied her reasonable visitation and requesting that the court schedule specific periods for visitation. Petitioner filed a counterpetition on May 10, 1985, requesting termination of all of respondent's visitation rights, alleging she had had almost no contact with the children since the dissolution. After a hearing on September 23, 1985, the court on October 3, 1985, ordered that respondent be granted visitation on alternate Sundays from 1 to 6 p.m. The court also stated in the order that it would review the situation in approximately six months. Another hearing was held on August 1, 1986. After this hearing, the trial court on September 2, 1986, terminated all of respondent's visitation rights.

At the first hearing on September 23, 1985, respondent testified that four or five months after the judgment of dissolution, she moved to Florida with her parents, where she resided for approximately one year. Shortly after the dissolution, the children began living with petitioner's parents in Stone Mountain, Georgia, while petitioner attended engineering school as part of his employment with the Missouri Pacific Railroad. While respondent lived in Florida, she telephoned the children in Georgia once a month. She visited the children for one week in the summer of 1981. This visit came when respondent moved from Florida to Houston, Texas. Respondent testified that while in Houston, she did not have as much contact with the children as before because she did not have a telephone. The longest period during which she did not talk to them was four or five months. She testified she did not make trips to visit the children in Georgia because she was financially unable to do so. After living in Houston approximately one year, she returned to Florida. She again began telephoning the children once a month. In October of 1984, respondent moved to the St. Louis area, and shortly thereafter visited the children once at petitioner's home in Salem, Illinois. After that visit, she attempted to contact petitioner regarding visitation "a couple of times, and [she] got hung up on." She testified she also left messages for petitioner at his place of employment, but that he did not return her calls. She further stated that petitioner's new wife hung up on her "quite a few times." Respondent testified she has seen her children twice in the six years since the dissolution. On one occasion she had planned to visit them but became ill and had to cancel her plans to travel to Salem. Respondent remarried in March of 1985 and at the time of this hearing lived in Jennings, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis.

Petitioner testified he had also remarried and that he resided in Salem. Petitioner confirmed that after his divorce from respondent, the children resided in Georgia with his parents while he attended engineering school. He visited the children five times a year, each visit lasting two weeks. Once the children were back living with him in Salem, there were times when respondent telephoned the children when they did not want to talk to her. On other occasions, petitioner refused to allow respondent to talk to the children when she called in the evening because the children were already in bed. He testified that respondent sometimes failed to send the children presents at Christmas and failed to send them cards or presents on their birthdays. Petitioner testified that the children were disappointed and hurt by respondent's failure to keep her promises to send gifts. Regarding respondent's attempts to talk to him about visitation, petitioner admitted that respondent had attempted to contact him at his place of employment, but that these calls embarrassed him and he decided he was not going to talk to her. He also admitted that he refused respondent's request for visitation once when his new wife's mother was hospitalized. Also at this hearing, petitioner stated it was not his intention to deny respondent all visitation, but that visitation with restrictions would be acceptable to him. He further stated that the children have asked about their mother.

Petitioner's new wife, Kellen, testified that she did hang up on respondent on certain occasions because the children indicated they did not want to speak with her. These occasions were after respondent visited the children in October of 1984. Kellen also testified that there were occasions when respondent broke promises she had made to the children to visit them or send them gifts, and that on these occasions the children were "very disappointed."

After hearing this testimony, the trial court ordered that respondent be allowed visitation on alternate Sundays from 1 to 6 p.m., requiring the visitation to take place in the Salem area, and stated that it would review the matter of visitation in approximately six months.

A review hearing was held on August 1, 1986. At that time, respondent testified she then lived in Berkeley, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. She admitted she had missed 7 of the 21 possible visitation Sundays allowed her, but explained that on two occasions she was ill, and that on the other occasions she either could not afford to travel to Salem or did not have transportation. Respondent also testified that when she did visit the children, it was difficult to find places to go and things to do with them in Salem. Respondent ...

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