The parties had entered into a Child Custody Agreement in 2015.  It contained one sentence (X(C), which is not a standard addition to such agreements.  X(C) stated that the parties could not file any motions or petitions related to custody matters unless they first submitted a written report from a psychologist designated as a “behavioral parenting coach”.

Again, the parties were in court over a change of custody from mother to father.  Mother wanted to take out the one-sentence provision re the behavioral coach requirement before going back to court.  The court granted Mother’s request and struck this provision.

Father appealed. The question was whether the trial court erred when it struck section X(C) from the 2015 custody judgment.  Did the parties have to go through the behavioral coach procedure before they went back to court regarding custody modification?

The Appellate Court agreed with the Trial Court.  Once a court makes an initial custody determination, it retains jurisdiction to modify the custody judgment.  Generally, there must be a showing of changed circumstances in order to vacate or void a judgment more than 30 days after the judgment has been entered.

However, courts may modify custody without a showing of changed circumstances if the modification is in the best interests of the children.  And the modification constitutes a minor modification.

The 2015 custody judgment is 125 pages long.  Section X(C) is one sentence within those 125 pages.  Striking section X(C) would undoubtedly be a minor modification.  Also, section X(C) is of a procedural nature and does not relate to the allocation of custody between the parties.

“It is commonly known that the term ‘minor’ is synonymous with ‘small’ or ‘inconsequential. Mother’s amended motion sought a minor modification to the 2015 custody judgment.  It is in the best interests of the children.  The trial court had jurisdiction to consider it.

This goes against the legislative intent of the Act.  Parties who are part of a custody judgment should be able to seek modifications of their own accord.

The court then found that section X(C) is void because “[t]he court exceeded its authority by delegating to a third party the power to intervene in custody matters.

In re Marriage of Wendy S., 2020 IL App (1st) 191661 (March 20, 2020) Cook Co., 6th Div.

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