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In re Marriage of Deem

March 15, 2002

IN RE: THE MARRIAGE OF WILLIAM RUSSELL DEEM, PETITIONER-APPELLEE, AND JODI L. DEEM, RESPONDENT-APPELLANT.


Appeal from Circuit Court of Douglas County No. 00D1 Honorable Frank W. Lincoln, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice McCULLOUGH

Released for publication March 20, 2002.

IN RE: THE MARRIAGE OF WILLIAM RUSSELL DEEM, PETITIONER-APPELLEE, AND JODI L. DEEM, RESPONDENT-APPELLANT.

Appeal from Circuit Court of Douglas County No. 00D1 Honorable Frank W. Lincoln, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice McCULLOUGH

PUBLISHED

 Respondent Jodi L. Deem (hereinafter Jodi) appeals the judgment of the circuit court of Douglas County dissolving her marriage to petitioner, William Russell Deem (hereinafter William). The parties have one child, Stephanie Ann Deem, born March 4, 1997. The issues on appeal are whether the trial court's awards of child custody, visitation, and child support amounted to an abuse of discretion. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand with directions.

William did not file an appellee's brief. However, the record is simple and the claims raised are such that this court can decide them without the aid of an appellee's brief. Therefore, we consider the merits of the appeal. First Capitol Mortgage Corp. v. Talandis Construction Corp., 63 Ill. 2d 128, 133, 345 N.E.2d 493, 495 (1976).

We initially consider the issues relating to custody and visitation. A reviewing court will not set aside the trial court's ordered custodial and visitation arrangements unless they are against the manifest weight of the evidence, manifestly unjust, or resulted from a clear abuse of discretion. Stockton v. Oldenburg, 305 Ill. App. 3d 897, 906, 713 N.E.2d 259, 266 (1999). In this case, the trial court found that joint custody was not appropriate, and Jodi does not challenge that finding. The factors for determining custody in accordance with the best interests of the child are set forth in section 602 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (Act) (750 ILCS 5/602 (West 2000)). Section 607(a) of the Act provides that, unless the court finds that visitation would endanger seriously the child's physical, mental, moral, or emotional health, a parent not granted custody is entitled to reasonable visitation. 750 ILCS 5/607(a) (West 2000).

Stephanie was three years old at the time the judgment of dissolution was entered on March 1, 2001. After concluding that joint custody would not be prudent and would not likely succeed, the trial court awarded custody and control of Stephanie to Jodi. The trial court's judgment kept in place the temporary order as to custody, which provided joint custody, until the start of kindergarten in the fall of 2001. The trial court did not explain why it kept the order for joint custody for that period of time after its judgment found that joint custody was not appropriate. Although the trial court's judgment did not award custody and control of the child to Jodi until the commencement of prekindergarten in fall of 2001, any issue or argument as to the question of joint custody is now moot. See Wilson v. Jackson, 312 Ill. App. 3d 1156, 1162-63, 728 N.E.2d 832, 837 (2000) (an issue is moot when intervening events render it impossible for a reviewing court to grant effectual relief to the complaining party).

The March 1, 2001, judgment provided that when the child "commences pre-kindergarten in fall, 2001, the care, custody and control" of the child is granted to Jodi. A holiday visitation schedule was set. The trial court also provided for specific custody and visitation to William, commencing with the summer after the 2001-02 school year. William was to "have custody *** from the day after school is out until one week prior to commencement of school in the fall" subject to each party's right to "two uninterrupted weeks with the child" and alternate weekend and week night visitation. While William had Stephanie for the summer, the judgment of dissolution provided that Jodi pay child support.

Jodi challenges this award of summertime "custody and visitation" to William. The judgment provides a form of alternating or rotating custodial arrangement rather than simply giving William expanded visitation during the summer, even though the judgment of dissolution designated Jodi as the custodial parent.

Generally, the custodial parent has the right to make decisions about the child's upbringing, education, health care, and religious training. In re Marriage of Duffy, 307 Ill. App. 3d 257, 260, 718 N.E.2d 286, 289 (1999); 750 ILCS 5/608(a) (West 2000). Alternating or rotating custodial arrangements are viewed with disfavor, particularly with young children, as they tend to appease the selfish desires of the parties while denying the child a permanent and stable home environment. Davis v. Davis, 63 Ill. App. 3d 465, 470, 380 N.E.2d 415, 418 (1978). We recognize that in Davis the custodial arrangement was different than that granted in the case at bar because in Davis there were custodial shifts during the school year. We also recognize that in In re Marriage of Dullard, 176 Ill. App. 3d 817, 821-22, 531 N.E.2d 854, 857-58 (1988), the court upheld a custodial arrangement for youthful children wherein one parent had custody of the children for the school year and the other had custody of the children for the summer. However, alternating custodial arrangements have been looked upon with disfavor unless the child is mature enough to cope with the custodial arrangement and visitation is difficult to organize because of the child's activities. See In re Marriage of Divelbiss, 308 Ill. App. 3d 198, 209-10, 719 N.E.2d 375, 383 (1999).

This court has recognized that the problem with alternate custodial arrangements is the potential development of insecurity and a sense of transience in social relationships in the child occasioned by the change of households and environments, playmates, and health-care providers. See In re Marriage of Oros, 256 Ill. App. 3d 167, 170, 627 N.E.2d 1246, 1249 (1994) (disapproving a joint custodial arrangement that shifted a preschool child between the parties every three months). "The order must give some permanency to the physical custody of the children and not simply attempt to equalize the time the children spend with each parent." In re Marriage of Swanson, 275 Ill. App. 3d 519, 524, 656 N.E.2d 215, 219 (1995). In Swanson, this court disapproved a twice-a-month shift of custody as not being in the children's best interests. Swanson, 275 Ill. App. 3d at 525, 656 N.E.2d at 220. In this case, the trial court specifically found that ...


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