“Rules of the road” Order in Child Custody Case: Illinois

The rift and divide in a married couple’s relationship usually impacts children deeply. Upon initiation of separation or divorce proceedings, the issue of child custody is of great importance.

Courts take care of such issues in the best interest of the child. What grabs attention here is the recent decision of the Illinois Supreme Court In re Marriage of Eckersal.

On January 23, 2015, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal by the mother in this case and upheld the decision of the Appellate Court which had entered a “rules of the road” order that specified every detail related to the conduct of the parents when they present themselves before the children during their respective meetings.

The proceeding in this case started in 2013 when the husband filed for divorce and joint custody of their children. In response, the wife filed a counter petition seeking the joint custody of children and specifically sought sole custody if the parties could not agree on a joint arrangement.

The Appellate Court appointed a counsel to represent the minor children under section 506(a)(3) of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. The counsel submitted a proposed custody and visitation injunction order. Under the proposed order, the parties would be prohibited from engaging in specific types of conduct regarding the minor children, including: (1) beating, striking, threatening or in any way interfering with the personal liberty of the minor children; (2) discussing any aspect of the pending litigation in the presence of the minor children, including custody, visitation, support, grounds for dissolution, financial information, and court dates; (3) questioning or discussing with the children their preferences regarding custody or visitation; (4) questioning, discussing, rehearsing or coaching the minor children regarding court testimony or interviews with the court, mediators, attorneys, investigators or any other person related to the dissolution proceeding; etc.

The court entered the said order to which the mother appealed stating the injunction infringed on her right to communicate with her children. The appellate court dismissed her appeal, holding that the order was not an injunction, and therefore the appellate court did not have jurisdiction to hear the case. The court held that the order was not procedurally defective and that it was a legitimate exercise of the court’s broad authority to protect the best interest of the children. The order just lays down the terms and conditions on visitation.

The point of the “rules of the road” Order is to limit the emotional toll that such proceedings already have on the child. 

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