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In re Marriage of O'Hare

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fourth District

May 9, 2017

In re MARRIAGE OF THERESA O'HARE, Petitioner-Appellee, and RONALD G. STRADT, Respondent-Appellant.

         Appeal from Circuit Court of Sangamon County No. 09D386 Honorable Jennifer M. Ascher, Judge Presiding.

          JUSTICE STEIGMANN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Holder White and Appleton concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          STEIGMANN JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 In March 2010, the trial court dissolved the marriage of petitioner, Theresa O'Hare, and respondent, Ronald G. Stradt. In its dissolution order, the court granted Stradt parenting time with the parties' minor child (born August 31, 2006) on every other Tuesday evening and every other Wednesday evening through Friday morning.

         ¶ 2 In August 2016, Stradt filed a motion to modify parenting time, seeking to forego parenting time on Tuesdays in exchange for parenting time on every Wednesday and Thursday, which represented a 6% increase in his parenting time. In response, O'Hare filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to section 2-615 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Civil Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-615 (West 2014)). Following a September 2016 hearing, the trial court granted O'Hare's motion and dismissed Stradt's motion to modify parenting time. Specifically, the court found that Stradt's request was not a "minor modification" as contemplated by section 610.5(e)(2) of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (Dissolution Act) (750 ILCS 5/610.5(e)(2) (West Supp. 2015)), which the legislature had recently modified.

         ¶ 3 Stradt appeals, arguing that the trial court erred by granting O'Hare's motion to dismiss. Specifically, Stradt contends that the court (1) failed to "accept as true all well-pleaded facts, and all reasonable inferences that may be drawn from those facts, " when considering O'Hare's motion to dismiss, and (2) did not properly apply the rules of statutory construction when interpreting what Stradt characterizes as the "ambiguous" term "minor modification." We affirm.

         ¶ 4 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 5 In May 2008, O'Hare and Stradt married, and the parties had a minor child. Their marriage was dissolved in March 2010, and pursuant to the dissolution order, Stradt was allocated the following parenting time:

"(1) *** alternat[ing] weekends *** beginning from Friday afternoon until Monday morning at 9:00 a.m. ***
(2)*** [Stradt] shall be entitled to mid-week visitation on the Tuesday nights before his weekend visitations from 4:30-5:00 p.m. until Wednesday morning *** no later than 9:00 a.m. ***
(3)during the weeks in which he does not have weekend visitation, [Stradt] shall have visitation on Wednesday from 4:30-5:00 p.m. until *** no later than 9:00 a.m. on Friday."

         Holidays and school breaks were reasonably and equally divided between the parties. The arrangement allocated 56% of the parenting time to O'Hare, while Stradt was allocated the remaining 44% of the parenting time.

         ¶ 6 In December 2015, Stradt filed his first motion to modify parenting responsibilities, seeking "sole custody" of the parties' minor child, subject to O'Hare's reasonable visitation. In January 2016, O'Hare filed a motion to increase Stradt's child-support obligations, citing a substantial increase in his income as the basis for the motion. The trial court ordered the parties to mediate these issues and scheduled a March 2016 hearing. The mediation was unsuccessful. (O'Hare's January 2016 filing is not at issue in this appeal.)

         ¶ 7 In March and April 2016, the parties filed individual parenting plans. Stradt sought, inter alia, sole decision-making responsibilities and parenting time on alternating weekends and every Monday and Tuesday evening. O'Hare urged the trial court to find that no legal basis was shown for a modification to the original parenting plan and requested that the original plan remain in place. O'Hare also filed a motion to dismiss Stradt's December 2015 motion to modify parental responsibilities.

         ¶ 8 At a May 2016 hearing, the trial court granted Stradt leave to file an amended motion to modify parental responsibilities, which Stradt filed immediately thereafter. Stradt's amended motion sought sole decision-making responsibilities and equal parenting time, characterizing his request as a "minor modification" pursuant to section 610.5(e)(2) of the Dissolution Act. In response, O'Hare filed a motion to dismiss Stradt's amended motion, arguing that (1) the parenting plan had been modified within the preceding two years, and therefore, it could not be modified absent a stipulation between the parties; and (2) ...


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