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In re Marriage of Tedrick

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fourth District

January 29, 2015

In re: MARRIAGE OF LINDSAY M. TEDRICK, Petitioner-Appellant, and JONATHAN M. TEDRICK, Respondent-Appellee

Appeal from Circuit Court of Logan County. No. 13D41. Honorable Thomas W. Funk, Judge Presiding.

Reversed; cause remanded with directions.

SYLLABUS

On appeal from the denial of the petition filed by the mother and residential parent of the parties' child to take the child with her to South Carolina where the mother had found a new job that would relieve her of the stressful and unremitting circumstances of the job she had in Illinois, the denial of her petition was reversed and the cause was remanded to the trial court with directions to make a new visitation schedule providing for liberal visitation for respondent father, since the removal would likely result in an improvement in the quality of life for the mother and the child, the mother was motivated by her intention to improve her employment circumstances and be closer to her family living in South Carolina, not to impair respondent's visitation rights, and respondent was motivated by his interest in continuing his relationship with his daughter, not to frustrate petitioner.

Michelle L. Blackburn (argued), of Sorling Northrup, of Springfield, for appellant.

Stephanie L. Scoles (argued), of Brucker Scoles, LLC, of Clinton, for appellee.

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

OPINION

APPLETON, JUSTICE

Page 1234

[¶1] Petitioner, Lindsay M. Tedrick, and respondent, Jonathan M. Tedrick, are divorced, and under the terms of the judgment of dissolution, they have joint custody

Page 1235

of their seven-year-old child, A.T. A joint-parenting agreement, incorporated into the judgment of dissolution, designates petitioner as the residential parent.

[¶2] In June 2014, petitioner filed a petition to remove A.T. permanently to South Carolina, where petitioner has a new job: a job that appears to be more secure and more desirable than the precarious and punishing job she had in Illinois. In August 2014, the trial court held an evidentiary hearing on the petition for removal, after which the court denied the petition, finding that the proposed removal would not be in A.T.'s best interest. Because that finding is against the manifest weight of the evidence, we reverse the trial court's judgment, and we remand this case with directions to make a new visitation schedule.

[¶3] I. BACKGROUND

[¶4] A. The Judgment Dissolving the Marriage

[¶5] 1. Joint Custody

[¶6] The parties separated from one another in December 2009, and on May 29, 2013, the trial court entered a judgment dissolving their marriage.

[¶7] The judgment of dissolution awarded the parties joint legal custody of their daughter, A.T., born on July 4, 2007, and provided that petitioner would be the " residential parent," meaning that A.T. would reside primarily with her.

[¶8] 2. Visitation

[¶9] According to a joint-parenting agreement, which was incorporated into the judgment of dissolution, respondent had the following visitation rights.

[¶10] He had two weekends per month, coinciding with the weekends he was off work. During the school year, visitation would begin on Friday at 3 p.m. and would end on Sunday at 8:30 a.m. During the summer, when school was not in session, visitation would begin on Friday at 9 a.m. and would end on Sunday at 8:30 a.m.

[¶11] He had Father's Day, from after church until 8 p.m.

[¶12] By mutual agreement, the parties would " equally divide [A.T.'s] birthday."

[¶13] He had " 14 days, with no more than 7 days in consecutive order, of uninterrupted periods of physical possession of the minor child each summer."

[¶14] B. Petitioner's Account of Her Difficulties in Her Illinois Job

[¶15] Petitioner testified that in June 2013, she began working for Lincoln Christian University in Lincoln, Illinois, as both the controller and the vice president of finance. She was doing the job of two persons. Not only was she in charge of all the business functions of the university, i.e., budgeting, payroll, and investments, but she also managed the maintenance department, the janitorial department, and human resources. She earned $70,000 a year in this position, but she worked 60 to 70 hours a week, including nights and weekends at home--while taking care of A.T. The job was stressful and unremitting. She was expected to answer telephone calls and e-mails at all hours, and more often than not, she " slept with [her] phone or [her] computer."

[¶16] Her relationship with the interim president of the university, Don Green, made the job even more stressful. As soon as he took over, he eliminated the jobs of her " two closest colleagues at work," the provost and the vice president of enrollment. He also eliminated the jobs of three staff employees. When petitioner expressed her concern to him that these eliminations could be detrimental to the university, he responded, " ['W]ell, we might miss you if you leave.['] " Green was

Page 1236

urging her to hire either a controller or a vice president of finance, the two positions she was simultaneously holding. But because he no longer was involving her in any of the financial decision-making at the university, she believed his intention was to replace her and get rid of her.

[¶17] The demands of her job at Lincoln Christian University were harming her health. She had lost 15 pounds, she was suffering from persistent migraine headaches, and she was starting to lose her hair. She was diagnosed with situational depression and was prescribed medication.

[¶18] C. Petitioner's New Job in South Carolina

[¶19] In January 2014, while still employed at Lincoln Christian University, petitioner began looking for a new job. Initially, she looked in central Illinois and in the Chicago area. She applied to a number of businesses, including Caterpillar, an accounting firm, and a Chicago hospital, but she did not apply to any college or university in Illinois (the record does not appear to reveal her reason for this exclusion). Only one of the Illinois businesses to which she had applied, a sewer equipment company in Dixon, called her in for an interview, but that company did not offer her a job. In fact, she received no offers of employment at all in Illinois.

[¶20] So, in April 2014, petitioner began seeking employment in Georgia and South Carolina. Her preference was South Carolina. That is where her parents and her sister live. (She has aunts and uncles in central Illinois but no immediate family members there.) After being interviewed three times at the University of South Carolina, in Lexington, petitioner was offered the job of fiscal analyst in the controller's office of that university. She accepted the offer, moved with A.T. to South Carolina, and began her new job in June 2014. She and A.T. now reside in Aiken, South Carolina, with petitioner's mother and sister. Petitioner has retained her house in Lincoln, however, pending a decision on her petition for removal. In the event her petition was granted, she would sell the house in Lincoln and move into an apartment in Lexington.

[¶21] Petitioner earns $56,000 a year at the University of South Carolina--less than her salary at Lincoln Christian University--but she works only 37.5 hours a week, with no overtime and no telephone calls at home, enabling her to spend more time with A.T. The working environment is quiet and genial. The staff there appreciates her, and she could one day advance into the position of ...


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