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Christine A.T. v. H.T.

December 04, 2001

CHRISTINE A.T., PETITIONER-APPELLEE,
v.
H.T., A/K/A H.S., A MINOR, RESPONDENT-APPELLEE,
AND FRANK F., ETTAMAY F., AND MICHAEL A. F., INTERVENORS-APPELLANTS.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 14th Judicial Circuit, Rock Island County, Illinois, No. 99-AD-71 Honorable John R. McClean, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Slater

Released for publication January 31, 2002.

CHRISTINE A.T., PETITIONER-APPELLEE,
v.
H.T., A/K/A H.S., A MINOR, RESPONDENT-APPELLEE,
AND FRANK F., ETTAMAY F., AND MICHAEL A. F., INTERVENORS-APPELLANTS.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 14th Judicial Circuit, Rock Island County, Illinois, No. 99-AD-71 Honorable John R. McClean, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Slater

Intervenors Frank F., Ettamay F. and Michael A. F. appeal from the trial court's order denying their petition to vacate an adoption decree. We reverse and remand.

Facts

On December 28, 1999, petitioner Christine A. T. filed a petition to adopt 12-year old respondent H.T. H.T.'s mother, Brenda S., and her father, Nickie T., split up in 1991, when H.T. was four years old. Nickie married petitioner in 1993, and H.T. began living with petitioner and her father in May or June of 1996. In July of 1996 Brenda S. died. On August 10, 1999, Nickie was killed in an automobile accident. Following the filing of the adoption petition by Christine, the trial court entered an adoption decree on February 15, 2000.

On June 15, 2000, the intervenors filed a motion to inspect the adoption record. Two of the intervenors, Frank and Ettamay F., are H.T.'s maternal grandparents; Michael F. is H.T.'s maternal uncle. The intervenors subsequently filed a motion to intervene and to vacate the adoption decree. That motion asserted that the intervenors had not received notice of the adoption proceedings as required by statute. Intervenors also alleged that H.T. had complained of abuse, drug use and excessive drinking by petitioner. In addition, intervenors asserted in an amended motion to vacate that petitioner was unfit on the bases of drug addiction, habitual drinking, and failure to protect H.T. from conditions in the environment injurious to her welfare. Those conditions included allegations that petitioner allowed her 15-year old daughter, T.B., to abuse alcohol and have sexual relations with more than 20 boys, and also that H.T. was exposed to sexual contact with an unknown male. The motion was supported by affidavits from H.T.'s older half-sister, P.S., two of petitioner's neighbors, H.T.'s aunt and uncle, and intervenors' attorney, Stephanie Ames-Cutkomp.

On August 11, 2000, petitioner filed a response to the motion to vacate denying the intervenors' allegations. Petitioner also filed counter-affidavits, the results of a drug screening test indicating that T.B. had tested negative, and a letter from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). The letter from DCFS stated that reports of alleged substance misuse by T.B. and of alleged inadequate supervision and risk of sexual injury to T.B. and H.T. were "unfounded."

On September 13, 2000, the circuit court issued a letter ruling denying intervenors' motion to vacate. The court found that petitioner was not required to give notice to the intervenors and therefore all statutory requirements for jurisdiction were satisfied. The court then stated that "[t]he second issue *** to consider is the best interests of the minor child." The court mentioned the affidavits and counter-affidavits but concluded that there was insufficient evidence to disturb the judgment "based on the present allegations and evidence." No evidentiary hearing was held.

Analysis

The intervenors first contend that the trial court erred in finding that they were not entitled to notice of the adoption petition. Intervenors rely on section 5(B)(h) of the Adoption ...


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