Supreme Court Summaries
Opinions filed September 20, 2012
In re Marriage of Coulter, 2012 IL 113474
Appellate citation: 2011 IL App (3d) 110424-U.
JUSTICE GARMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.
Chief Justice Kilbride and Justices Freeman, Thomas, Karmeier, Burke, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.
The parties to this Will County child custody dispute were married in 1996 in California and moved to Illinois in 2004. They have three minor children. In 2005, the husband filed a petition for dissolution of marriage and, in 2006, the parties signed a joint parenting agreement which was incorporated into the judgment of dissolution which was entered on May 8, 2008.
Under the agreement, the mother had primary residential custody and would stay in Illinois for 24 months, but would be free to return to California with the children after 36 months. The period between the end of the second and the beginning of the third year was set aside for mediation and discussion. At the end of the first 24 months, the mother notified the father of her intent to relocate, but no mediation or discussion took place until just two months before the expiration of the 36-month period, when the father sought to enjoin the mother from moving the children from the state. In seeking an injunction, he claimed that the mother had not requested mediation and, in addition, alleged that there had been a substantial change in circumstances which would justify giving him sole custody of the children. The circuit court refused his injunction request, and the mother moved to California with the children in June of 2011. In September of that year, the appellate court reversed the circuit court and remanded the cause to the trial court, which, in December of 2011, entered an order requiring the return of the children. The mother appealed.
In this decision, the supreme court reversed the appellate court, holding that the mother had complied with the terms of the joint parenting agreement, which was part of the judgment of marriage dissolution. This entitled her to remove the children after three years. Thus, denial of the injunction was proper. However, the father was not entirely without recourse. His petition to modify custody remains pending in the circuit court because, in seeking injunction, he had also sought custody modification. He is still free to make an attempt, in the circuit court, to meet the statutory burden of showing that circumstances have changed so significantly that a custody modification would be appropriate.