Appeal from the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court, McDonough County, Illinois No. 96-D-84 Honorable William Henderson, Judge Presiding
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Homer
Respondent, Kevin Hare, brought a petition requesting that the trial court modify the judgment of dissolution of marriage and joint parenting agreement such that he would be named the residential parent. Following a hearing, the court modified the joint parenting agreement by naming respondent the residential parent and modifying visitation arrangements. Petitioner, Laurie McGillicuddy, appeals. We affirm.
Laurie McGillicuddy, f/k/a Laurie Hare, and Kevin Hare were married in 1986 and divorced in 1997. They have two children, 11-year-old Nicholas and 7-year-old Morgan. When the marriage was dissolved, both Kevin and Laurie lived in Macomb, Illinois. Pursuant to the joint parenting agreement, which was incorporated into the judgment for dissolution of marriage, Laurie was designated the residential parent. However, physical custody of the children was split evenly between the parties. The parties agreed that the children would stay with Laurie on Monday and Tuesday and with Kevin on Wednesday and Thursday. They alternated weekends including Fridays.
In 1998, Laurie married Mike McGillicuddy. Mike received a promotion to an office in Springfield, Illinois, in November 1998. In March 1999, the couple purchased a home in Springfield. The children remained in school in Macomb through the end of the 1998-99 school year. Laurie moved to Springfield in the summer of 1999 and enrolled the children in Springfield schools. The children began the 1999-2000 school year in Springfield.
Pursuant to article two of the joint parenting agreement, Kevin petitioned the court to name him the residential parent, asserting that it was in the children's best interests to live with him in Macomb. At the hearing, Kevin testified that he has always been heavily involved in the care of the children, including attending parent-teacher conferences, doctor visits, and sports activities, as well as participating in the routine care of the children. He coached Nicholas' Little League team and helps with homework and school projects. He and the children go swimming, camping, fishing, and roller skating. The children have aunts, uncles, cousins and paternal grandparents who live in Macomb.
Laurie testified that the 50-50 custody arrangement had worked well. After moving to Springfield, Laurie offered generous visitation arrangements to Kevin. Laurie testified that both Morgan and Nicholas were happy at the Springfield schools. She testified that, if she remained the residential parent, she would give Kevin as much time as possible with the kids.
During an in-camera interview, the trial judge asked the children if they would like to stay in Springfield with their mother and visit with their dad in Macomb on a regular basis or whether they would rather live in Macomb. Nicholas responded that he might want to stay in Macomb and that he did not have any friends in Springfield. Morgan said she would like to live in Macomb.
Nicholas' teacher in Springfield testified that he is very cooperative and gets along well with other students. The teacher testified that Nicholas did not have any adjustment problems in Springfield and he was performing at his grade level.
Kevin remarried in 1999, and his wife, Terry, testified that she has two children, who are 7 and 10 years old, and they get along great with the Hare children. She said she would welcome the Hare children into her home.
Laurie's husband, Mike, testified that he gets along well with the kids. He has two children from a first marriage that get along well with the Hare children. He mentioned that Nicholas and Morgan had made friends in Springfield. The family enjoys activities on the weekend such as boating and golfing.
In making his decision, the trial judge stated that the children indicated a preference to stay in Macomb and that almost all of the children's family and friends were in Macomb. The judge found that the schools in Springfield are equal to those in Macomb. The trial judge stated that because stability was the primary goal in determining the children's best interests, he was granting Kevin's petition. The court denied Laurie's motion for reconsideration. She appeals contending that Kevin did not show by clear and convincing evidence that it was in the best interests of the children to modify custody.
The standard of review for modification of a child custody order after a dissolution judgment becomes final is whether the modification is against the manifest weight of the evidence or constitutes an abuse of discretion. In re Marriage of ...