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Langman v. Langman

July 06, 2001


Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 21st Judicial Circuit Kankakee County, Illinois. No. 99-F-67. Honorable Susan Sumner Tungate, Judge Presiding.

Honorable Peg Breslin, Justice, Honorable Mary W. McDADE, Justice, Honorable Kent Slater, Justice.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kent Slater.

Assigned March 13, 2001

Submitted April 18, 2001


JUSTICE SLATER delivered the opinion of the court. BRESLIN and McDADE, J.J., concur.

The respondent, Amy Langman, appeals from the judgment of the circuit court of Kankakee County granting the petitioners, Brent and Rita Langman, visitation rights to their grandchildren. On appeal, Rita argues: (1) section 607(b)(1) of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (Act) is unconstitutional as applied in this case ( 750 ILCS 5/607(b)(1) (West 1998)); (2) section 607(b)(1) of the Act is unconstitutional on its face ( 750 ILCS 5/607(b)(1) (West 1998)); and (3) the trial court's visitation schedule was against the manifest weight of the evidence. We hold that section 607(b)(1) of the Act is unconstitutional as applied in this case and reverse the trial court's judgment.

The record reflects that Amy and Rhett Langman were married and had two children, T.L., born September 3, 1995, and P.L., born June 25, 1998. Rhett died in an accident on September 20, 1998. After Rhett's death, Amy had disagreements with Rita and Brent, Rhett's parents, regarding the amount of time they would be allowed to spend with her children. Amy wanted only supervised visitation. Rita and Brent wanted unsupervised visitation.

On May 21, 1999, Rita and Brent filed a petition to set grandparent visitation. At the hearing on the petition, Elizabeth Langman testified that she was the children's great-grandmother and had resided with Brent and Rita for the last two years. According to Elizabeth, before Rhett's death, he would bring T.L. over to the house once a week for visits. She said that Rita and Brent had a loving relationship with T.L. She had observed T.L. shower with his grandfather on more than one occasion, but she did not find that to be improper.

Amy testified as an adverse witness. She said that she and the children had moved six hours away from Rita and Brent to Columbia, Missouri, for a fresh start. She said that when Rhett was alive, he used to take T.L. over to Rita and Brent's once a week. T.L. used to spend 10 hours a week at Rita, and Brent's home until Amy learned that Brent was showering naked with T.L.

Brent testified that before Rhett died, he would see his grandchildren about every two weeks. He had a good relationship with Rhett and they were in business together. He and Rita would vacation with Rhett, Amy, and the children at least once a year. After Rhett died, they would see the children on Tuesday nights while Amy bowled. He had not heard from the children or seen them since the previous Halloween. Brent said that he and Rita only wanted their own time with their grandchildren, but Brent admitted that he wanted Amy to bring the children to his home and leave them there without Amy being present.

Rita Langman testified that T.L. had just turned three and P.L. was three months old when her son died. Before Rhett died, she saw T.L. two to three times a month; she and Brent babysat for T.L. and P.L. She had a very close relationship with T.L. They used to all vacation together. After Rhett died, their relationship with Amy became strained. She asked Amy once if there was a problem, and Amy told her that she and Brent would not do what she asked them to do when they babysat. Amy asked her to telephone her ahead of time if she wanted to visit the children. Rita said she then began to call first, but that she seldom got a phone call back. She wanted to see her grandchildren more often.

On cross-examination, Rita said that Amy was doing a good job raising the children. She knew that Amy criticized her because of the "shower incident." Rita said that they had two bathtubs in their house, but T.L. wanted to shower, so Brent showered with him. This upset Amy.

Brent was recalled as a witness. He testified that he raised two children, Brent and Rhett. His son Brent visits the house once or twice a month. When he visits, he stays overnight with his friend, Ray Bonovini. Brent and Ray had been in the home when T.L. and P.L. visited, but they never stayed overnight on the same night. When questioned about showering with T.L., Brent admitted that he had ...

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