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06/02/94 AUDRA DIANNA WEYBRIGHT v. STEVEN BRIAN

June 2, 1994

AUDRA DIANNA WEYBRIGHT, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
STEVEN BRIAN PUCKETT, DEFENDANT, AND JUDITH A. VOELKER, PETITIONER-APPELLANT.



Appeal from Circuit Court of Macon County. No. 88F252. Honorable James A. Hendrian, Judge Presiding.

Petition for Rehearing Denied July 8, 1994.

Honorable Carl A. Lund, J., Honorable John T. McCULLOUGH, P.j., Honorable Frederick S. Green, J.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lund

JUSTICE LUND delivered the opinion of the court:

Petitioner Judith Voelker filed a petition pursuant to section 607(b) of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (Act) (750 ILCS 5/607(b) (West 1992)), seeking to establish visitation rights with her granddaughter, Heather Puckett. The circuit court of Macon County denied her petition and she now appeals.

Petitioner's evidence at the hearing before the trial court established that her son, Steven Brian Puckett, father of Heather, was deceased and that Heather lived with her mother, plaintiff Audra Dianna Weybright. The mother and petitioner's son had lived together before and after Heather's birth, but were never married to each other. The son's paternity of Heather was legally established in 1988. Heather's parents separated when she was approximately five months old. After the separation, petitioner's son had little contact with Heather and did not contribute to her support. Prior to the separation, petitioner had frequent contact with Heather but, afterward, she saw Heather only about three times. She made some efforts to gain visitation, but the mother refused. Petitioner had last seen Heather about four years ago. At the time of the hearing in this case, Heather was five years old.

At the close of petitioner's evidence, the trial court granted a motion by the mother's counsel for judgment in her favor. In doing so, the court voiced a concern about reintroducing a stranger into Heather's life. It found that petitioner had failed to show that it was in Heather's best interest to grant the visitation.

Section 607(b) of the Act provides, in pertinent part:

"The court may grant reasonable visitation privileges to a grandparent, great-grandparent, or sibling of any minor child upon petition to the court by the grandparents or great-grandparents or on behalf of the sibling, with notice to the parties required to be notified under Section 601 of this Act, if the court determines that it is in the best interests and welfare of the child, and may issue any necessary orders to enforce such visitation privileges. Except as provided in paragraph (2) of this subsection (b), a petition for visitation privileges may be filed under this subsection (b) whether or not a petition pursuant to this Act has been previously filed or is currently pending if one or more of the following circumstances exist:

(A) the parents are not currently cohabiting on a permanent or an indefinite basis;

(B) one of the parents has been absent from the marital abode for more than one month without the spouse knowing his or her whereabouts;

(C) one of the parents is deceased;

(D) one of the parents joins in the petition with the grandparents, ...


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