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05/28/97 ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT PUBLIC AID v. CHARLES

May 28, 1997

THE ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC AID, EX REL. KILEY GAGNON-DIX, A MINOR, BY DEBRA DIX, PETITIONER, DEBRA DIX, PETITIONER-APPELLANT,
v.
CHARLES GAGNON, RESPONDENT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from Circuit Court of Sangamon County. No. 87F110. Honorable George H. Ray, Judge Presiding.

Honorable Robert W. Cook, J., Honorable Robert J. Steigmann, P.j. - Concur, Honorable James A. Knecht, J. - Concur. Justice Cook delivered the opinion of the court. Steigmann, P.j., and Knecht, J., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cook

JUSTICE COOK delivered the opinion of the court:

In March 1994, the Illinois Department of Public Aid (Department) filed a petition to determine paternity on behalf of Kiley Gagnon-Dix, a minor, by Debra Dix, her mother. Paternity was subsequently established by a blood test. In January 1995, respondent Charles Gagnon admitted paternity, and in February 1995, he filed a petition for visitation, which was granted by the trial court in June 1995. Later that month, petitioner Debra Dix moved to reopen, stay visitation, and appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL). The trial court granted the motions. A GAL was appointed and interviewed Kiley, Dix, and Gagnon. After considering the GAL's report, the trial court again granted respondent visitation. Petitioner Dix appeals, maintaining the trial court's ruling was against the manifest weight of the evidence and the court erred in not appointing a GAL at the outset of the case. Her motion for an emergency stay was denied. The Department was involved in trial court proceedings to determine paternity and establish child support but is not party to this appeal. We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

Kiley was born to Dix on November 6, 1986. Dix notified Gagnon of her pregnancy. He was then in the United States Marine Corps stationed at Camp Le Jeune, North Carolina. She also notified him of Kiley's birth.

On January 29, 1987, Dix filed a petition for support in this case under the Revised Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act (URESA) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 40, par. 1201 et seq.) against Gagnon, which the circuit court transferred to North Carolina. On October 19, 1989, the superior court of Oslow County, North Carolina, dismissed the action without prejudice as Gagnon had been discharged from the Marine Corps and moved to Springfield, Illinois.

On April 2, 1990, Gagnon stated through his attorney (by letter referencing this case number) that, in the event he were determined to be Kiley's father, he was prepared to do "the right thing." The letter noted statutory child support was $120 per month, stated he would exercise regular visitation, set out a proposed visitation schedule and asked to hear from Dix within 10 days.

On March 24, 1994, the Department filed a petition to determine the existence of a father-and-child relationship. Blood tests were ordered. Following the results of the tests, on February 15, 1995, the trial court entered an agreed order of parentage.

On February 24, 1995, Gagnon filed a petition for visitation. Since the time of Kiley's birth, Gagnon had not had contact with her. After hearing evidence on March 17, the trial court granted visitation by order of June 9, 1995.

On June 21, 1995, Dix moved to stay visitation, reopen the case, and appoint a GAL. A GAL was appointed and, in her July 1995 report, recommended that visitation be granted. On July 13, 1995, the trial court conducted another evidentiary hearing and in camera interview. On July 28, 1995, the trial judge, after considering the GAL's report and determining that visitation would be in the best interest of Kiley, ordered visitation. Dix appeals.

II. ANALYSIS

Gagnon did not file a brief in this appeal. The standard of review in such instances is governed by First Capitol Mortgage Corp. v. Talandis Construction Corp., 63 Ill. 2d 128, 345 N.E.2d 493 (1976). Under Talandis, "if the record is simple and the claimed errors are such that the court can easily decide them without the aid of an appellee's brief, the court of review should decide the merits of the ...


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