In 2010, the trial court made a custody judgment awarding Mother sole custody of the three minor children. In 2012, Father filed a petition to change custody to him. He claimed that since the custody judgment, Mother had engaged in “increasingly bizarre and erratic” behavior. Also, he claimed that she made “a relentless campaign to alienate the children” from him.
Among other acts, Father claimed that on three occasions in 2012, Mother had made false allegations of abuse against him. These led to unnecessary investigations by police and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Each DCFS investigation was “unfounded”. But, Father claimed Mother had misrepresented these DCFS investigations to the children’s medical personnel and teachers.
Father’s petition further claimed that all three children now suffered “emotional problems. Also, he claimed that two of the children now had behavioral problems.
The trial court heard over 30 days of testimony. It heard from the court’s expert evaluator. He issued an original report and update. It heard from the mother’s own expert evaluator. The original report of the court’s evaluator recommended decision-making be changed from the mother to the father. However, the updated report said that the mother had shown improvement in taking responsibility for her actions. It also said that mother acknowledged that her actions harmed the children. Therefore, a change of custody from the mother to the father was not necessary.
The child representative also recommended that decision-making stay with the mother. But, the trial court Judge decided that a change to the father was in the best interests of the children.
The appellate court agreed. It noted that the trial court was in the best position to make judgments with respect to the parties’ credibility. The trial court had noted the mother was not credible with any of her testimony. The trial court was not obligated to follow the recommendations of the expert evaluator or child representative.
In its opinion, the trial court wrote that the biggest factor that weighed in favor of the modification was that the father was more likely to facilitate a relationship between the mother and the children than the mother was with the father.
In re Marriage of Wendy LD, 2016 IL App (1st) 160098
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