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11/14/88 In Re Marriage of Stephen Dullard

November 14, 1988

IN RE MARRIAGE OF STEPHEN DULLARD, PETITIONER-APPELLANT,


APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIRST DISTRICT, FIRST DIVISION

and MARY MURPHY, F/K/A Mary Dullard,

Respondent-Appellee

531 N.E.2d 854, 176 Ill. App. 3d 817, 126 Ill. Dec. 227 1988.IL.1647

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. John W. Gustafson, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE O'CONNOR delivered the opinion of the court. BUCKLEY and QUINLAN, JJ., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE O'CONNOR

Stephen Dullard appeals the modification of a joint custody agreement between himself and appellee Mary Murphy, formerly Mary Dullard. Stephen argues that the modification, which awards him sole custody of the minor children Amy and Chelsea Dullard during the school year and gives Mary sole custody of the children during the summer months, is not in the best interest of the children. For the reasons below, we affirm.

Stephen and Mary Dullard were divorced on July 24, 1981. The judgment for dissolution of marriage contained an agreement of joint custody of Amy, born February 17, 1977, and Chelsea, born January 12, 1979. The children lived with Mary, and Stephen was given liberal visitation rights that allowed him to see the children every weekend and during the week and on holidays.

At the time of the divorce, the parties lived within a mile of each other in the Beverly neighborhood of Chicago. Stephen was employed as an insurance underwriter and Mary was employed part time as a waitress and school teacher. Subsequently, both parties remarried. Stephen moved to Glen Ellyn, Illinois, and he and his second wife have one child. Mary remained in Beverly with her new husband, William Murphy. Mr. Murphy had three children by a previous marriage, and Mary and Mr. Murphy have two children.

After the parties remarried, cooperation and communication between them deteriorated, as did the home life in the Murphy household. Consequently, Stephen moved for modification of the custody agreement, seeking sole custody of the children. A hearing on the modification commenced on August 12, 1987.

The record shows that Mary became uncooperative with Stephen concerning his visitations, occasionally refusing to let him see the children and occasionally making him wait to pick up the children while she made the children do last-minute household chores. The record further shows that the Murphys had difficulties paying bills and that the gas and electricity were shut off from September to November 1986. The record also shows a hostile relationship between Mary and Mr. Murphy's oldest daughter, Kathleen, which culminated with Mary destroying some of Kathleen's dresses. There was also testimony that there had been at least one fight between Mary and Mr. Murphy, related to drinking, although neither was a habitual drinker. A neighbor testified that during the incident, Amy and Chelsea sought refuge at her home.

Amy and Chelsea Dullard testified that Mary often screamed at them and slapped them, and that they were fearful of Mary when she was angry. Mary denied ever slapping the children, except to spank them on their bottoms. Both girls stated that they preferred to live with Stephen.

Two experts testified that Mary was suffering from an abnormal amount of stress, stemming from the financial difficulties and the instant litigation, recommending therapy for Mary. Only one of the experts, however, recommended removal of the children from the Murphy household, and neither felt Mary was an unfit mother. One expert also stated that it was possible that the children ...


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