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Felzak v. Hruby

September 20, 2007

GERALDINE FELZAK, APPELLEE,
v.
RALPH HRUBY ET AL., APPELLANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Burke

Published opinion

Justices Freeman, Fitzgerald, Kilbride, Garman, and Karmeier concurred in the judgment and opinion.

Chief Justice Thomas took no part in the decision.

OPINION

In this case we are asked to revisit our decision in In re M.M.D., 213 Ill. 2d 105 (2004), and again address whether Wickham v. Byrne, 199 Ill. 2d 309 (2002), which held unconstitutional Illinois' grandparent visitation statute, invalidated a pre-existing agreed order for grandparent visitation. However, because the minor who was the subject of the agreed visitation order at issue here has turned 18 during the pendency of this appeal, the case has been rendered moot. We vacate the judgments of the courts below and remand the cause with instructions to dismiss.

Background

Ralph and Deborah Hruby were married in 1977 and had three children: Greg, born November 25, 1983, Jeff, born August 4, 1985, and Katie, born July 22, 1989. Shortly after Katie's birth, in October of 1989, Deborah died of a cerebral hemorrhage.

In 1992, Ralph married Sondra. Sondra Hruby adopted Ralph's three children in November of 1993.

Geraldine Felzak is the mother of Deborah Hruby. In the spring of 1994, Geraldine filed an amended petition for grandparent visitation in the circuit court of Du Page County pursuant to section 607(b) of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (750 ILCS 5/607(b) (West 1992)). In the petition, Geraldine alleged that, following the death of her daughter, she had cared for and maintained close contact with Greg, Jeff and Katie. Geraldine further alleged that, in December of 1993, Ralph and Sondra had informed her that she would no longer be permitted to have visitation with the children. Geraldine sought an order establishing reasonable visitation privileges.

Ralph and Sondra filed an answer to Geraldine's amended petition for grandparent visitation. Included in their answer was the affirmative defense that section 607(b) of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, commonly known as the grandparent visitation statute, was unconstitutional under both the federal and state constitutions. In support of this contention, Ralph and Sondra maintained, among other things, that the statute permitted "undue interference with the fundamental right of parents to raise children and conduct family life *** in the absence of a compelling State interest." Ralph and Sondra sought dismissal of Geraldine's petition.

On April 29, 1994, the circuit court referred the parties to a psychologist for conciliation counseling. In October of 1994, the psychologist submitted a "Psychological Evaluation/Conciliation Report," which recommended that visitation between Geraldine and the children continue.

On December 16, 1994, the parties entered into an agreed order in "full and complete settlement of all pending petitions and responses thereto." Pursuant to recommendations contained in the conciliation report, the parties agreed that Geraldine would be permitted visitation with her grandchildren one day a month for six hours, and would be permitted to visit over the phone with the children for up to 30 minutes, once a month. The parties further agreed that, in the event of a dispute regarding the terms of the order, they would meet with a conciliator to mediate the disagreement, before proceeding to court.

Some four months later, in April of 1995, Geraldine filed a "Petition for Further Conciliation and Other Relief." In this petition, Geraldine alleged that, since the entry of the December 16, 1994, agreed order, she had not had any visitation with Greg or Jeff. Geraldine also alleged that Katie, while visiting with her, had requested additional visitation time, including overnight visitation. Geraldine requested that the court direct Ralph and Sondra to participate in further conciliation to resolve these issues.

Geraldine's petition was set for hearing in August of 1995. Prior to that date, however, on June 15, 1995, the parties entered into a second agreed order. In this order, the parties agreed to increase Geraldine's visitation with Katie from 6 hours per month to a total of 10 hours per month, with the terms of the first agreed order otherwise remaining in effect. In ...


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