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Orla Voris v. Mark Voris

November 22, 2011


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 08 D 6597 Honorable John Thomas Carr, Judge Presiding.

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

PRESIDING JUSTICE QUINN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Connors and Harris concurred in the judgment and opinion.


¶ 1 In this child custody action, pro se appellant Mark Voris appeals from an order of the circuit court that amended the original agreed parenting order regarding custody and visitation of the parties with their three children and determined that Mark only be allowed supervised visitation with his three minor children. For the reasons stated below, the circuit court's order is affirmed.


¶ 3 The parties, appellant Mark Voris and appellee Orla Voris were married in 1995 and had three children, born in 2000, 2002 and 2005, respectively. On November 12, 2009, an order was entered dissolving their marriage along with an agreed parenting order. The terms reached between the parties included granting Orla Voris custody of the children and visitation rights to the non-custodial parent, Mark Voris. It was agreed that Mark's weekly visitation would occur on Monday and Wednesday evenings and every other weekend. The agreed order also provided that the three children would be encouraged to participate in school and extracurricular activities and events. The agreed order also provided that Mark Voris would refrain from exposing their three children to his Jehovah's Witness religion until each child reached 13 years of age.

¶ 4 In September 2010, the custodial parent, Orla Voris, filed her "Fourth Verified Post-Decree Petition for Rule to Show Cause and Emergency Petition of Supervised Visitation" alleging numerous, ongoing instances where Mark violated the terms of the agreed parenting order and that his violations were an attempt to undermine Orla's relationship as the custodial parent with their three children and were harming the well-being of the three children.

¶ 5 After the court presided over a three-day evidentiary hearing on Orla's petition, it held that Mark Voris's visitation schedule would remain as stated in the original agreed parenting order, but it ordered that all visitation time going forward would be supervised. The court emphasized that its ruling was not because of Mark's religious beliefs but because it found, after hearing testimony and reviewing all evidence presented, that Mark was exploiting his religious beliefs to alienate their children from Orla, the custodial parent, and, furthermore, that Mark's actions were confusing the children and harming their mental and emotional well-being.

¶ 6 On appeal, Mark argues that the court was provided with no proof of harm to his children; that the court should not have considered the 31-page report by Dr. Gardner, a clinical and forensic psychologist, because it is inconsistent and unconstitutional; and that a Rule 23 (Ill. S. Ct. R. 23 (eff. Jan. 1, 2011)) unpublished order of this court provides precedent for reversing the ruling of the circuit court imposing supervised visitation that limits Mark's ability as a non-custodial parent to expose his children to his religious beliefs because such exposure is in violation of the agreed parenting order.


¶ 8 As a preliminary matter, Orla responds by moving to strike Mark's brief for failing to comply with the procedural requirements contained in Illinois Supreme Court Rule 341. Ill. Sup. Ct. R. 341 (eff. July 1, 2008). These procedural rules governing the content and format of appellate briefs are mandatory. People v. Garstecki, 382 Ill. App. 3d 802, 811 (2008), aff'd on other grounds, 234 Ill. 2d 430 (2009). Appellant's brief does, in fact, fail to conform to many of the mandatory requirements of both Illinois Supreme Court Rules 341 and 342 (Ill. S. Ct. R. 342 (eff. Jan. 1 2005)).. It does not contain a jurisdictional statement, the standard of review to be employed by the court or the required certificate of compliance with Rules 341 and 342. Furthermore, he fails to cite to the record. He has not included any appendix with his brief and has not attached a copy of his notice of appeal or the final order from which he appeals. Based upon such noncompliance, his appeal is subject to dismissal. La Grange Memorial Hospital v. St. Paul Insurance Co., 317 Ill. App. 3d 863, 876 (2000). The fact that a party appears pro se does not relieve that party from complying as nearly as possible to the Illinois Supreme Court Rules for practice before this court. Peeples v. Village of Johnsburg, 403 Ill. App. 3d 333, 335 (2010). While the pro se appellant may not have fully understood the importance of his compliance with the rules when he initially filed his brief with this court, the appellee's responsive brief put him on notice of his brief's many deficiencies and the dire consequences for failing to comply with Illinois Supreme Court Rules 341 and 342.

¶ 9 Although these many violations of the Illinois Supreme Court Rules justify dismissing appellant's claims on appeal under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 341(h), because the appellee has provided this court with enough materials and appellant made an attempt to correct some of his deficiencies in his reply brief, we address the merits of appellant's three issues raised on appeal.

¶ 10 A. Standard of Review

ΒΆ 11 Under Illinois law, a circuit court order that modifies the conditions of custody and visitation is within the discretion of the circuit court and will not be reversed unless a clear showing of an abuse of discretion by the court is shown. In re William H., 407 Ill. App. 3d 858, 866 (2011). It ...

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