Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Fourth Division
from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 16 P 6849
Honorable Susan Kennedy Sullivan, Judge Presiding.
McBRIDE JUSTICE delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Presiding Justice Burke and Justice Ellis concurred
in the judgment and opinion.
1 Petitioner Lillian M. is the biological mother of minor
Andre T., who was born January 15, 2003. In November 2016,
Lorenzo S. and Patricia S., Andre T.'s paternal uncle and
aunt, filed a petition for guardianship of Andre T. In March
2017, the trial court granted the petition over Lillian
M.'s objection, and appointed Lorenzo S. and Patricia S.
as guardians for Andre T. (hereinafter, the Guardians). In
June 2017, Lillian M., now represented by counsel, filed a
motion to dismiss the order of guardianship. Lillian M.
subsequently withdrew her motion to dismiss and filed a
petition to discharge guardianship under section 11-14.1(b)
of the Probate Act of 1975 (755 ILCS 5/11-14.1(b) (West
2016)). Prior to the evidentiary hearing on the petition, a
guardian ad litem (GAL) was appointed to represent
Andre T., and the GAL filed a motion in limine to
clarify the issues to be raised at the hearing to those
related to the petition for discharge and exclude Lillian
M.'s arguments related to the entry of guardianship. The
trial court granted the GAL's motion. At the evidentiary
hearing, the trial court granted the GAL's motion for a
directed finding following Lillian M.'s case and denied
petitioner's petition to discharge guardianship.
2 Lillian M. appeals, arguing that the trial court erred by
(1) granting the GAL's motion in limine limiting
the issues for the evidentiary hearing, (2) admitting the
GAL's supplemental report on the day of the evidentiary
hearing, and (3) granting the GAL's motion for a directed
finding and denying the petition to discharge guardianship.
3 Andre T. was a foster child from January 23, 2003, through
May 21, 2008, when the juvenile court returned him to the
care of Lillian M. In 2008, Lillian M. agreed to relinquish
custody of Andre T. to the Guardians. Since 2008, the
Guardians have been the primary caretakers of Andre T. The
Guardians have stated that from 2008 to approximately 2011,
Lillian M. had little or no contact with Andre T. From
approximately 2011 until the filing of the petition for
guardianship, Lillian M. has had regular contact and
visitation with Andre T. while he lives with the Guardians.
4 In November 2016, the Guardians filed their initial
petition for guardianship of Andre T. in the trial court. In
their petition, the Guardians indicated that they were Andre
T.'s paternal grandparents and that both parents'
addresses were unknown. Andre T. nominated the Guardians as
guardian of his person, but was 13 years old at the time of
filing. An amended petition was filed in February 2017, at
which time Andre T. was 14 and able to sign the nomination.
The amended petition also correctly identified the Guardians
as Andre T.'s paternal aunt and uncle and listed Lillian
M.'s address. Lillian M. appeared pro se in the
proceedings on the petition for guardianship and objected to
its entry. In December 2016, the GAL was appointed for Andre
T. and was ordered to conduct an investigation into Andre
T.'s best interest and make a recommendation.
5 On March 24, 2017, the GAL filed a report. The GAL stated
that Lillian M. and the Guardians differ in their accounts on
visitation. Lillian M. stated that she saw Andre T.
"nearly every weekend during the school year" and
that Andre T. "spends summers primarily" with
Lillian M. The Guardians stated that Andre T. spends two
weekends per month with Lillian M. and spends the summer with
the Guardians. The GAL noted that visitation and
communication between Lillian M. and the Guardians had broken
6 The GAL interviewed Lillian M., the Guardians, and Andre T.
Lillian M. was 52 years old and resided in the North Lawndale
neighborhood in Chicago. Lillian M. has five children in
addition to Andre T., but all other children are over 21
years old and reside outside of Lillian M.'s apartment.
She has a two-bedroom apartment with rent "partially
subsidized through the Department of Housing and Human
[sic] Development." Lillian M. was employed at
UPS, working 4 to 5 hours per day. She also receives social
security disability benefits and SNAP benefits. Lillian M.
has a history of drug abuse and criminal activity. Her last
arrest occurred in May 2011, and her last drug-related arrest
occurred in February 2010. Lillian M. stated she has been
sober for six or seven years. The GAL had recommended a drug
test for Lillian M., and the results were negative.
7 The Guardians are the paternal aunt and uncle of Andre T.
Patricia S. is the sister of Andre T.'s father. Patricia
has been a homemaker for 20 years, and Lorenzo was employed
by the Chicago Fire Department for 23 years, but has now
retired. Criminal background checks showed neither had a
criminal history. They own a four-bedroom condo in the
Woodlawn neighborhood and reside there with Andre T. and
their 26-year-old son. The Guardians have four other
children, but all are over 21 years old and reside outside of
their home. Andre T.'s father is not a party to the case.
The father visits Andre T. at the Guardians' home on an
occasional basis, but no visits occur when Andre T. is with
Lillian M. The GAL acknowledged the errors in the
Guardians' initial petition and observed that the
Guardians stated the errors were mistakes in filling out the
form with the assistance of the Chicago Child Care Society.
8 The GAL interviewed Andre T., who was polite and
cooperative, but seemed intimidated and apprehensive about
the interview. The GAL informed Andre T. that the final
decision of who he lived with was up the trial court and
there was "no pressure." When asked for his
thoughts on the topic, Andre T. "put his head down and
declined to answer the question at all."
9 The GAL offered the following analysis:
"[Andre T.] is currently in the middle of two competing
parties that each, in their own way, genuinely want the best
for him and for his future. [The Guardians] have cared for
[Andre T.] since he was a small child and, by all accounts,
provide a safe and stable environment for [Andre T.] On the
other hand, [Lillian M.] wants to regain custody of her son
after dealing with her own troubled past. While her past
behavior and criminal activity made her unfit to care for a
child at the time, it has been almost six years since her
[Lillian M.] should be commended on the positive direction
that her life has taken over the past six or seven years and
her desire to play a more active role in [Andre T.'s]
life. A more important consideration, in the GAL's view,
is the fact that [Andre T.] has spent his entire childhood in
the care of [the Guardians]. [The Guardians] provide a safe
and stable environment for [Andre T.] The GAL fears that
completely disrupting the status quo by asking [Andre T.] to
live with [Lillian M.] full time would be detrimental to
[Andre T.] in the months before he starts high school."
10 The GAL recommended that a resolution of the matter would
be in Andre T.'s best interest. The recommendation was
for the Guardians to be granted guardianship, but with the
stipulation that the Guardians and Lillian M. work together
in good faith to provide Lillian M. with visitation on a
consistent basis, at least two weekends per month.
11 On March 24, 2017, the trial court appointed the Guardians
as guardians of Andre T. "over the objection of Lillian
M. who may file a subsequent motion." The order further
required that Lillian M. have visitation at least two
weekends per month and that she be permitted to speak to
Andre T. on the phone at reasonable times. The order also
stated, "The GAL can untangle issues that arise
regarding communication and visitation." Finally, the
order stated, "The court wishes the adult cooperation
that existed for years can be restored!" The case was
taken off call.
12 On June 22, 2017, Lillian M., now represented by counsel,
filed a motion to dismiss the case for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction pursuant to section 2-619(a)(1) of the Code of
Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-619(a)(1) (West 2016))
and section 11-5(b) of the Probate Act of 1975 (Probate Act)
(755 ILCS 5/11-5(b) (West 2016)). The motion asserted that
the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to proceed
on the guardianship petition filed by the Guardians, the
Guardians lacked ...