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In re Marriage of Rogers

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fourth District

January 26, 2015

In re: MARRIAGE OF LAUREN ROGERS, n/k/a LAUREN BEAUDETTE, Petitioner-Appellant, and TERRY ROGERS, Respondent-Appellee

Appeal from Circuit Court of Edgar County. No. 09D2. Honorable Steven L. Garst, Judge Presiding.

Affirmed.

SYLLABUS

In a custody dispute where the mother of the parties' child claimed that custody could be modified only when the changed circumstances have already harmed or affected the welfare of the child, the trial court properly determined that it was not required to wait until something happened to the parties' child before it could modify custody, and when respondent identified changes in petitioner's circumstances, including the emergence of mental health issues, a troubled and sometimes violent relationship between petitioner and her new husband, instances of reckless and neglectful parenting by petitioner, and petitioner's unwillingness to be truthful and forthcoming with respondent about important matters affecting their child, the trial court, pursuant to granting respondent's motion to reconsider the earlier denial of his petition for modification, properly granted his motion based on the conclusion that the trial court's earlier denial improperly required respondent to show that the child's welfare was adversely affected or harmed by petitioner's acts and conduct, rather than considering the factors relevant to the child's best interest with respect to modification.

John C. Vojta (argued), of Law Offices of John C. Vojta, of Palatine, for appellant.

Brent D. Holmes and Thomas A. Drysdale (argued), both of Heller, Holmes & Associates, P.C., of Mattoon, for appellee.

JUSTICE STEIGMANN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Pope and Justice Appleton concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

STEIGMANN, JUSTICE

Page 1214

In January 2009, petitioner, Lauren Rogers--now known as Lauren Beaudette--filed for dissolution of marriage from respondent, Terry Rogers. In March 2009, the trial court entered a judgment (1) dissolving the parties' marriage; (2) awarding petitioner custody of the parties' son, B.R. (born May 13, 2008); and (3) awarding respondent reasonable visitation. In February 2012, respondent filed a motion to modify custody pursuant to section 610(b) of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (750 ILCS 5/610(b) (West 2012)), alleging that (1) a change in circumstances occurred and (2) it was in B.R.'s best interest to be placed in respondent's custody. In March 2014, following a six-day bench trial, the court denied respondent's motion.

In April 2014, respondent filed a motion to reconsider, arguing that the trial court applied an incorrect legal standard in denying his motion to modify custody. Specifically, respondent contended that the court improperly required him to prove that petitioner's acts and conduct harmed B.R.'s welfare. In July 2014, the court granted respondent's motion to reconsider, concluding that its original ruling erroneously " placed an additional burden on [respondent] to show that the welfare of the child was adversely affected or harmed by the acts and conduct of [petitioner] rather than considering the factors for the best interest of the child for modification." Thereafter, the court transferred custody of B.R. to respondent.

Petitioner appeals, arguing that the trial court erred by granting respondent's motion to modify custody because respondent failed to prove that the change in circumstances adversely affected B.R.'s welfare. We disagree and affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

The following pertinent facts were gleaned from the parties' pleadings, exhibits, and evidence presented at the trial.

A. Events Preceding Respondent's Motion To Modify Custody

In January 2008, petitioner and respondent--then 24 and 31 years old, respectively--married in the Bahamas. The couple's only child, B.R., was born in May 2008. In January 2009, petitioner filed her

Page 1215

petition for dissolution of marriage, which the trial court granted in March 2009. As part of its dissolution judgment, the court ratified the parties' settlement agreement, which awarded custody of B.R. to petitioner and granted respondent reasonable visitation. The settlement agreement further provided that if either party moved more than one hour away from the other party, child visitation and sharing of transportation would be revisited.

In the summer of 2009, petitioner and respondent filed separate motions to modify visitation, both asserting that petitioner moved from Paris, Illinois--where she had lived with B.R. and respondent during the marriage--to Naperville, Illinois. In January 2010, the trial court entered an order modifying visitation, which (1) provided alternate-weekend visitation for respondent and (2) required the parties to meet in Gilman, Illinois, to transfer custody of B.R.

B. Respondent's Motion To Modify Custody

In February 2012, respondent filed his motion to modify custody, which he amended in June 2012 and again in August 2013. Respondent's final amended motion alleged that a substantial change in circumstances had occurred pertaining to petitioner and B.R., which rendered it in B.R.'s best interest that custody be transferred to respondent.

C. Evidence Presented at Trial

The parties presented the following pertinent evidence at trial, which took place over six days in January and February 2014. We note that the six-volume trial transcript consists of lengthy testimony from 15 different witnesses, and the trial record includes voluminous documentary exhibits. In the interest of clarity, we summarize only the evidence pertinent to our resolution of this appeal.

1. Petitioner's Postdivorce Life in the Chicago Suburbs

In July 2009, petitioner moved from Paris to her sister's home in Naperville, where she began a full-time position at a video-rental store. In October 2009, petitioner quit her job at the video store to work at the day care center that B.R. attended. Petitioner worked at this day care center until March or April 2010.

In June 2010, petitioner married Shawn Beaudette, who at that time was an insurance salesman for Liberty Mutual. The couple moved into a townhouse in Naperville and petitioner began working part-time at a bar and grill. In August 2010, the family moved into a house in Aurora. In October 2010, petitioner quit her job at the bar and grill and began working for a social-service provider for adults with mental illnesses, where she stayed until March 2011. From March 2011 until April 2013, petitioner operated an unlicensed day care business out of her home. Thereafter, petitioner and Shawn moved to a house in Oswego and petitioner became a stay-at-home mother.

2. The July 2010 Handgun Incident

Petitioner and Shawn spent the evening of July 24, 2010, drinking with friends and celebrating Shawn's thirty-sixth birthday. Sometime after midnight, the couple got into a dispute after Shawn discovered text messages on petitioner's phone in which petitioner's former video-store coworker told petitioner that he " wanted to hug and kiss her." According to petitioner's statements to police, Shawn pushed petitioner down onto the couple's bed. Petitioner told Shawn that if he did not leave her alone, she was going to get her handgun. After hearing this ...


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