Re: The Guardians documentary film on iTunesThis

From Ken Ditkowsky;
As this is the season for good will after wishing everyone in sight a Merry Christmas and a joyous Happy New Year – and meaning it – I started to read the Wall Street Journal web site as to breaking news and noted an article that related to a company/fund that invested in underwater mortgages.  The company made billions relying upon the basic honesty of the “great unwashed.”   The writer seemed surprised at the result.
Even though no one can suggest that I just fell off the turnip truck, I was not.    There is a basic honesty that is and has been always part of the American culture.   Indeed, our Political and media institutions are working very hard to counter even the impression of integrity, but, examples abound.
This guardianship criminal enterprise is an anomaly even though it threatens every one of us is so horrendous and so many of our Political icons are co-conspirators pursuant to 18 USCA 371 one way or another.
This brings me to the Philip Esformes billion dollar Medicare theft case set for January.    The government wins an extra-ordinary percentage of its cases and the way this case is set up by the prosecution Esformes is dead meat and obviously guilty.
Indeed, the government must prove each element of the criminal charge by proof beyond a reasonable doubt but we all are realistic to know that when the word MEDICARE FRAUD, nursing home and BILLION dollar is mentioned in the same sentence a vote for guilty is a sure thing.   A recent Article in the Miami Herald telegraphs just how overwhelming is the evidence.
I have been hoping for and HONEST INVESTIGATION of this entire HEALTH CARE FIASCO/SCANDAL/FRAUD as the “gulag” threatens each of us, and the “cover up” generated by official corruption in our government institutions is destroying the fabric of America.   Obviously the corrupt public officials in Illinois, Florida, California et al are going to resist as the 700% fraud surcharge funds their political organizations and allows then to purchase elections and immunity; however, Mr. Esformes knows where many of the bodies are buried.
It has been my experience (over 50 years in the Law business) that the FBI special agents, IRS special agents, et al are decent and honest individuals and not happy campers when they have to tolerate the holier than thou corrupt public servant.   Ergo – why is Philip Esformes, who is not a dummy, not candidly and truthfully trying to mitigate his crime?

NOVEMBER 14, 2018 03:15 PM,

UPDATED NOVEMBER 14, 2018 06:33 PM

Philip Esformes, Miami Beach healthcare executive at center of massive Medicare fraud case.
Philip Esformes, Miami Beach healthcare executive at center of massive Medicare fraud case.ROB LATOUR INVISION/AP

In the nation’s biggest Medicare fraud case, a federal judge decided Tuesday to keep the trial of a wealthy Miami Beach businessman on track — despite finding problems with the conduct of prosecutors and agents.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Robert Scola found that while they “failed to uphold the high standards” expected of them, federal law enforcement agencies did not act in “bad faith” during their investigation and prosecution of Philip Esformes. Detained since his arrest more than two years ago, Esformes, 49, is charged in a $1 billion Medicare fraud scheme and faces trial in January.

In his ruling, Scola agreed with a magistrate’s previous decision not to throw out the indictment filed in Miami or disqualify the team of prosecutors from the Justice Department and U.S. Attorney’s Office. But Scola disagreed with Magistrate Judge Alicia Otazo-Reyes’ prior ruling on tossing out certain evidence in the high-profile case, and he also described the conduct of the team of prosecutors and agents less harshly than she did in her August decision.

Scola, who as the district judge has the authority to adopt or reject a magistrate’s ruling, said he does not believe “prosecutors acted with any overt intent to violate the defendant’s rights or mislead the court.”

 

“Although the prosecution team operated in good faith, their execution of their duties was often sloppy, careless, clumsy, ineffective and clouded by their stubborn refusal to be sufficiently sensitive to issues impacting the attorney-client privilege,” the judge wrote in the 50-page ruling.

His view contrasted with Otazo-Reyes’ harsh criticism of the Justice Department prosecutors and FBI agents who were involved in the 2016 search of one of Esformes’ assisted-living facilities. Located in North Miami, the Eden Gardens assisted-living facility had an office for his company’s lawyer.

Esformes’ defense attorneys Howard Srebnick, Roy Black and Jackie Perczek argued that the prosecutors and agents should be disqualified from the case, saying the search at the Eden Gardens ALF was tainted because hundreds of the seized documents in the 70 boxes carted away were protected under attorney-client privilege.

Otazo-Reyes “found the government’s attempt to obfuscate the evidentiary record to be deplorable.” But instead of disqualifying the federal team or dismissing the indictment, Otazo-Reyes chose to suppress the protected correspondence as well as other evidence that was improperly obtained and handled by prosecutors and agents. But that issue became a moot point for Scola because the federal team agreed not to use any of that evidence against Esformes.

According to the Justice Department’s indictment, Esformes is accused of exploiting his network of about 20 Miami-Dade skilled-nursing and assisted-living facilities to fleece the taxpayer-funded Medicare program by filing false claims for services that were not necessary or not provided over the past decade leading up to his arrest in July 2016.

Esformes is also accused of referring his own network of patients to convicted healthcare-fraud offenders, including Guillermo and Gabriel Delgado. The brothers pleaded guilty and admitted swindling Medicare for mental-health, prescription-drug, and home-healthcare services, and they ultimately helped federal investigators target the Miami Beach executive.

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year; New Senate report on Aging says Courts fail to protect the Elderly

Subject:  Courts Fail to Protect Elders from Abuse says Senate Committee on Aging 2018 Report released today

Elders Drugged, Loosing their home to have their money drained Isolated from family and worse to have the TAX Payers Footing the Bill.
Hamilton County Ohio Probate. Please read and forward on. www.TawnFichter.com
 FORBES REPORT

https://www.forbes.com/sites/tedknutson/2018/11/28/senate-report-faults-courts-for-failing-to-protect-1-3-million-vulnerable-americans/#5b7134ac1690

 PDF download of full U.S. SENATE REPORT YOU PAID FOR IT

https://www.aging.senate.gov/ imo/media/doc/Guardianship_ Report_2018_gloss_compress.pdf

 Hamilton County Ohio Probate Court

 Before you vote next time please make sure you know what kind of person they are

www.KendalCoes.com

 Ralph Winkler Stop Elder Abuse and Exploitation  www.TawnFichter.com  prattermann@probatect.org

 Enjoy your time with your Elders and keep them out of Probate Courts ” Protection”

From OCR==Corruption stories in gship–Orange County Cal. experiences a steady stream.

Mhttps://www.ocregister.com/2018/09/23/money-draining-probate-system-like-a-plague-on-our-senior-citizens/oney-draining probate system ‘like a plague on our senior citizens’

Kennett Taylor poses with a photo of his ex-wife, Elinor Frerichs, outside the Elihu M Harris State Building in Oakland, Calif., after meeting with Senator Nancy Skinner on Friday, Aug. 17, 2018. (Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group)

PUBLISHED:  | UPDATED: 

Love landed Elinor Frerichs in a secured facility for people with dementia.

Twelve days after the death of her husband, 95-year-old Frerichs married a friend 26 years her junior, a man who watched the same TV shows and made her feel “happier than ever.”

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But shortly after saying “I do,” Frerichs was placed under a court conservatorship at the recommendation of a psychologist and Adult Protective Services. She was hospitalized and her marriage was annulled — partly to shield her estate, estimated at $1 million.

Despite concerns over her mental capacity, Frerichs appeared lucid in a transcript of a rare visit with friends, vowing, “I’m not going to sit there and rot and die in that damn room.”

She also had a few words for her conservator: “You are a bastard if I ever met one. Somehow, I’m going to get rid of you. Somehow.”

Frerichs’ case in Alameda County has caught the attention of prosecutors and reformers examining a flawed nationwide system in which strangers appointed by the court decide where people live, how their money is spent and even who they can see.

How can legal professionals have such power over the life of a noncriminal, to the point that even family has no voice?

It’s called probate court, and — used properly — it can be a way to protect the elderly and disabled from physical and financial bullying by family and friends. But probate court also can open the door for high-priced professionals to swallow a client’s life savings and the family’s future inheritance.

An investigation by the Southern California News Group reveals that conservators, guardians, fiduciaries, their attorneys and judges become almost cliquish in running people’s lives.

‘Buddy-buddy system’

“Often there is a little buddy-buddy system going on … sometimes a judge has friends who are attorneys,” said Thomas Coleman, a Palm Springs lawyer who specializes in representing the disabled.

It’s a sticky situation that can become a strain on the limited resources of the client, who is billed for the salaries and legal fees of the professionals involved in probate cases. Critics say these professionals often play one side of the family against the other.

Consider:

  • In Santa Ana, court-appointed officials drained a retired judge’s savings and then forced her into a jumbo reverse mortgage on her $1.8 million house in Newport Beach to keep the money flowing.
  • Again in Santa Ana, a conservator sold part of an elderly woman’s real estate to the owner of a land brokerage where he worked. The conservator then tried to collect a $9,800 commission on the sale.
  • In Las Vegas, a guardian was indicted in 2017 on charges of stealing $559,205 from 150 clients from 2011 to 2016. April Parks allegedly overbilled for such things as grocery trips and making bank deposits, according to the 125-page indictment prosecuted by the Clark County District Attorney’s Office.
  • In Berkeley, the husband of an elderly woman defied court instructions and removed his wife from what he considered to be a substandard board-and-care home where she had been placed by her conservator. The judge took no action against the husband, whose family said he could no longer sit idly by while his wife suffered.

“It’s happening again and again. It’s like a plague on our senior citizens,” said Berkeley Vice Mayor Ben Bartlett, who is among those calling for reform.

“We need to turn the operation upside down. What you see is an incentive to work up attorney fees,” Bartlett said. “There is no incentive to preserve the liberty of the person. We need greater oversight with more opportunity to challenge.”

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley, who launched a task force to review complaints inside her county’s probate court, agrees the process may need retooling because of the expense.

“If you have 20 court appearances, it might add up,” O’Malley said. “It’s a system that needs to be evaluated, (but) we can’t shortchange protecting the senior.”

Courts jammed

Fiduciaries statewide are regulated by a small bureau that opened in 2007 after media coverage of unlicensed conservators.

The Judicial Council of California reported that probate filings reached 47,170 cases in fiscal 2015-16. California’s Professional Fiduciaries Bureau — a division of the Department of Consumer Affairs — has one investigator and two full-time administrators to oversee 995 licensees.

Last year, the bureau issued four citations for a total of $4,000 in penalties. One license was surrendered and three were placed on probation.

Rebecca May, chief of the bureau, did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

Amy Olson, executive director of Irvine-based Professional Fiduciary Association of California, defended her members, insisting they are genuinely concerned with the welfare of their clients.

“(They) operate under the strict rule of the court,” Olson said. “It is not as if they are going willy-nilly; their goal is the care of the client.”

However, John Deily, an Irvine probate attorney who represents fiduciaries, says the system is fraught with conflict, in which many families don’t get along with each other or with the conservators.

“(And) our probate courts are exploding with … the volume,” Deily said. “The number of cases brought to the court is increasing.”

Against this backdrop, critics complain that some of the professionals are out to pad their own fees until the money is gone or substantially drained. They relate incidents of the elderly and disabled being isolated from their families by conservators, paying exorbitant professional fees for substandard care and seeing life savings and real estate holdings disappear while judges do nothing.

“Conservatorships are imposed (by judges) in minutes with nary a nod toward due process,” said Linda Kincaid, co-founder of the Coalition for Elder and Disability Rights, based in Northern California. “Once the conservatorship is in place, there is essentially no court oversight or accountability. Conservators and their agents are free to exploit and abuse with impunity.”

Superior Court Judge Betty Lou Lamoreaux in 1988. (File Photo by Ana Venegas, Orange County Register/SCNG)

No one is immune

Betty Lou Lamoreaux was a giant on the Orange County Superior Court bench. Her work with children was so impressive that the county named the seven-story family courthouse  after her — the Lamoreaux Juvenile Justice Center.

Lamoreaux, now 94, has Alzheimer’s disease and is unable to care for herself. But she has nephews who want to help. Because of disagreements with another part of the family, they took her case to probate court, believing that a retired judge whose name adorns a courthouse would get top consideration.

Duff Lamoreaux McGrath in 2016 outside county courthouse named after his Aunt, Betty Lou Lamoreaux, whose life savings is is in danger of being financially drained, in part by the very justice system to which she dedicated her life. (Courtesy of Duff McGrath)

Instead, nephew Duff McGrath said, he has watched helplessly as no fewer than nine lawyers and a handful of contractors swallowed “Auntie Lou’s” $273,700 nest egg and forced her into a jumbo reverse mortgage. McGrath, a trustee, said he agreed to the real estate deal, but only because he believed the conservator would remove him as trustee if he didn’t agree.

“If we fight it, they will fight us and use my aunt’s money to fight us,” complained Greg McGrath, Duff’s brother. “They’re just sucking up my aunt’s money.”

All this occurred under the watch of Superior Court Judge Kim Hubbard. The case has since been handed over to Judge David L. Belz.

Conservator under fire

Much of the McGraths’ criticism is aimed at Laguna Hills conservator Sally Cicerone — one of the more active conservators in Orange County. State records show she managed $26.7 million in assets in 2017.

After her first year with Lamoreaux, she billed the estate $42,210, according to records.

Among the family’s complaints: Cicerone waited four months to get a replacement for Lamoreaux’s broken wheelchair. And even then, the new chair didn’t fit and quickly broke. Cicerone billed $700 for her time.

Sally Cicerone

Other documents show Cicerone billed $250 to visit Lamoreaux and take delivery of a new leather recliner in April 2017. But in a sworn declaration, Cicerone contractor Julie Sebestyen testified that it was she who visited Lamoreaux and monitored the chair delivery, not Cicerone.

Cicerone also had a system that allowed her to miss visits with Lamoreaux, but still charge for them, according to a court declaration by Sebestyen.

“On at least four different occasions, Sally told me that she deliberately did not sign in at the front desk so that no one could track her visits. By not signing in, she could allege she had visited when she had not,” Sebestyen testified. Lamoreaux has since been moved home.

“Petitioner has already demonstrated that she inflates her time and thus fee request, bills for services she has not performed, bills for services performed by others, intentionally and fraudulently falsified her time sheets … and neglected the conservatee,” the McGraths alleged in a court declaration.

Cicerone also charged for telephone calls to her attorney that did not appear on the attorney’s log of their conversations, according to allegations in court records.

Kathy Gardner, a former Cicerone employee and client, joined the chorus of people unhappy with Cicerone.

Gardner, in a court declaration, said she made bank deposits on behalf of clients, usually depositing them in batches, a process that takes about 15 minutes. Gardner said Cicerone charged for them as if they were deposited by herself, one by one, at $100 apiece. Cicerone billed Lamoreaux $2,600 to deposit her banking.

Gardner testified that Cicerone hired her at the same time that Cicerone was the conservator for Gardner’s 82-year-old father. Because of a potential conflict, Cicerone advised Gardner to use a fake name at work, said Gardner’s sworn declaration.

More allegations can be found in an appellate court ruling — Cicerone v. Kennedy — that listed overbilling in a Santa Barbara case. Justices ruled that Cicerone inappropriately paid herself $14,519 and her attorney $18,231 after they had been removed from a conservatorship case. They were ordered to return the money.

Cicerone did not return phone calls seeking comment. But in court records, Cicerone and her attorney, Neil Knuppel, denied the allegations in the Lamoreaux case, calling them “false and misleading” and made by disgruntled and spiteful former workers. They are “nothing more than an attempt to discredit … Cicerone’s character,” Knuppel wrote.

Added Cicerone: “Although there were times I did not sign in at the front desk … it was not so I could hide my visits.”

Real estate flipping

Besides the attorneys, fiduciaries and conservators, probate court also can mean a windfall for other contractors.

Joyce Marie Johnson, 74, once was a real estate broker who owned multiple properties in the mountain town of Lytle Creek, north of Fontana, as well as in Long Beach and Seal Beach. Now she sits in an Orange County board-and-care home, dementia eating away her mind, while a court conservatorship liquidates her real estate and isolates her from family members.

Joyce Marie Johnson

Like a quiet prayer, she murmurs, “Don’t forget me here.”

Johnson’s problems began after her two daughters disagreed on who should have power of attorney. The family squabble was taken to probate court and the judge appointed an attorney to represent Johnson.

After a year, Johnson’s real estate holdings were withering from a lack of attention, alleged one daughter, Purita Myers. Rents were not being collected, she said, and repairs were not being made. Long Beach fiduciary Timothy Mock was brought in by the attorney to straighten out the real estate mess. Mock, a former Torrance city councilman, is a would-be lawyer who failed the bar exam four times.

Mock’s answer was to sell some of the Lytle Creek properties to the owner of a real estate office where Mock worked, Long Beach Brokerage Inc. Mock sold the property to his boss for $270,000, court records say. Within days after closing escrow, Long Beach Brokerage listed the property for $570,000. The real estate was taken off the market when Myers complained.

Mock also sought $9,800 in sales commissions. And he listed his own fiduciary fees at $19,000 in the property deal.

Mock gave back the commission, but remains as Johnson’s fiduciary. Under his stewardship, Johnson’s monthly expenses have climbed from $3,000 to $33,000, Myers charged in court papers.

“They don’t care about the people, they care about the money,” Myers said.

Mock defended the Lytle Creek sale, saying it was approved by a judge and that no one else would buy the property. He said he was unable to speak further because he has cancer.

The state Professional Fiduciaries Bureau investigated a complaint from Myers and found no wrongdoing on the part of Mock.

However, a June 2016 deposition of Mock was especially telling in how his clients generally fare. Mock was asked, “How do your conservatorships typically come to an end?”

He answered: “They run out of money.”

Family takes charge again

Some families are so frustrated with the probate court process that they decide to defy the court.

For years, well before Katherine Carter got sick, Credell Carter was in charge of his wife’s estate. Then, at age 84, she dissolved into dementia and stage 4 kidney failure. When Carter tried to represent his wife, an Alameda County Superior Court judge suspended him as her conservator.

Katherine Carter

Katherine Carter was placed in a home where she got substandard care, leaving the family no choice but to physically remove her, said daughter Venus Gist. They went on Valentine’s Day.

“We just acted like normal. We wheeled her out, put her in the car and took her home,” Gist said. “They could have called the police, put us in jail, but they didn’t.”

No court action was taken against the family, which is trying to have Katherine Carter removed from conservatorship. In the meantime, she remains at home. Her conservator is trying to get her returned to a board-and-care.

“It’s like a circus,” Gist said of the whole ordeal. “God, please get me out of it.”

The litigation of love

Elinor Frerichs

Elinor Frerichs’ story reads like a movie plot: rich, elderly widow marries younger man and attempts to sign over her estate. Social service workers get suspicious that the beau has too much influence over his wealthy bride.

Kennett Taylor, the younger man in this real-life scenario, has a few other suspicions about why the probate court took control of his beloved Frerichs and her sizable estate. Taylor, 69, is African-American; Frerichs is white.

“They don’t want to see a black man end up with that amount of money,” Taylor said in a phone interview from his home in Oakland. “They’ve been running up the bills for nothing; they kidnapped her out of her house; the whole idea (for them) was to steal her estate. … They thought they could get away with it because I’m an African-American.”

Taylor said he and Frerichs had been neighbors for 10 years and compared their friendship to the one depicted in the film “Driving Miss Daisy.”

“I’m happier with you than I’ve ever been with any man. Really and truly,” Frerichs tells Taylor in the transcribed visit. “You can kiss me on the cheek.”

And so he does.

“Now,” she says, “I’m happy.”

It was Taylor who insisted Frerichs get a psychological exam to prove that she was mentally competent to include him in her will, which they believed would be contested by her step-grandchildren.

The examiner, neuropsychologist Nancy A. Hoffman, grew concerned that Frerichs’ judgment was impaired and she was vulnerable to financial and physical abuse by Taylor and his friends, according to her official report. Frerichs can’t see well enough to read a bill or sign a check, Hoffman noted.

She also noticed that Frerichs’ nails were chipped and she had a “slight odor,” as if she had not bathed in days. Yet, she found that Frerichs’ speech was fluent and understandable, with no evidence of impairment in expression or comprehension.

Frerichs’ marriage to Taylor in Reno, Nevada, was annulled at the behest of conservator Scott Phipps, a  graduate of McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago. Frerichs signed the annulment papers, which said: “I feel I was unable to make any sound decisions during the month that my spouse died.”

Kennett Taylor outside the Elihu M. Harris State Building in Oakland, Calif., after meeting with Senator Nancy Skinner on Friday, Aug. 17, 2018. (Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group)

Hoffman declined to comment on the case, citing patient confidentiality. Phipps emailed a written statement: “I was appointed by the court to serve as Ms. Frerichs’ conservator and every action I have taken in that role has been done in furtherance of my duties to Ms. Frerichs and in compliance with the court’s wishes.

“As a professional fiduciary with many years of experience,” he continued, “I take my role and responsibilities very seriously and continuously work to protect Ms. Frerichs and make sure her needs are met.”

Kincaid, the activist, speculated that Frerichs didn’t understand when she signed the annulment papers.

“We also believe they told her Ken wanted the annulment,” Kincaid said. “To me, it comes down to Elinor has the right to see visitors if she wants to … (and) if she wants to give her money to a (pet) cat, she can do it.

“You don’t lock up little old ladies.”

Attorney Deily put it another way: “When do you lose the right to make a bad decision?”

From FC: Did the Illinois Supreme court treat bio fathers as 2nd class citizens?

So I read this, and I thought, maybe those crazy father’s rights cases do have a point.

A single mother brings home baby from the hospital and she has constitutional rights.

Dad has to get a DNA test and even then his rights are conditional?

Why the difference?

read on:

Parentage of J.W.
v.
Wills

helpCheck If This Is Still Good Law
Supreme Court of Illinois.May 23, 2013Full title

990 N.E.2d 698 (Ill. 2013)Copy Citation
990 N.E.2d 698371 Ill. Dec. 5102013 IL 114817

Cases citing this case

  • Toth v. Howrey

    …¶ 24 A. The Best-Interests-of-the-Child Standard and the Standard of Review¶ 25 The Parentage Act establishes…

  • C.C. v. David H.C.

    …See J.S.A. v. M.H., 224 Ill.2d 182, 211–12, 309 Ill.Dec. 6, 863 N.E.2d 236 (2007). ¶ 69 Rather than…

lock 49 Citing caseskeyboard_arrow_right

Summaries written by judges

  • Holding that the biological father, who established his paternity under the Parentage Act of 1984 more than six years after the child’s birth, was not entitled to the presumption that visitation was in the child’s best interests (under section 607 of the Dissolution Act) but was required to prove that visitation was in the child’s best interests (under section 602 of the Dissolution Act)

    Summary of this case from James R.D. v. Maria Z. (In re Parentage of Scarlett Z.-D.)

lock 1 Summarykeyboard_arrow_down

David Sotomayor, of Orland Park, for appellant. James A. Martinkus, of Erwin, Martinkus & Cole, Ltd., of Champaign, for appellee.
Robert F. Harris, Kass A. Plain and Christopher Williams, of the Office of the Cook County Public Guardian, of Chicago, for amicus curiae Cook County Public Guardian.
Lisa Madigan, Attorney General, of Springfield (Michael A. Scodro, Solicitor General, and Diane Potts, Deputy Attorney General, of Chicago, of counsel), for amicus curiae Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services.
Camilla B. Taylor, of Chicago, for amicus curiae Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc.

OPINION


Justice THEIS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

¶ 1 The issue in this appeal concerns the proper standard to be applied when a biological father seeks visitation privileges after a determination of parentage under section 14(a)(1) of the Illinois Parentage Act of 1984 (the Parentage Act)(750 ILCS 45/14(a)(1) (West 2010)). The circuit court of Vermilion County applied the best interests of the child standard set forth in section 602 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (the Marriage Act)(750 ILCS 5/602 (West 2010)), and found that it was not in the minor child’s best interests to have contact with her biological father at this time. The appellate court reversed, concluding that section 607(a) of the Marriage Act (750 ILCS 5/607(a) (West 2010)) is the relevant standard to be considered, entitling a noncustodial parent to a rebuttable presumption of reasonable visitation unless it can be shown that visitation would seriously endanger the child’s physical, mental, moral or emotional health.

¶ 2 For the reasons that follow, we hold that in a proceeding to determine visitation privileges under section 14(a)(1) of the Parentage Act, the initial burden is on the noncustodial parent to show that visitation will be in the best interests of the child pursuant to section 602 of the Marriage Act. We therefore reverse the judgment of the appellate court.

¶ 3 BACKGROUND

¶ 4 In the summer of 2001, Amy Wills–Merrill and Jason Wills began an intimate relationship. During that same summer, unbeknownst to Jason, Amy had a one-time sexual encounter with Steve Taylor. Amy subsequently became pregnant and had a child, J.W., who was born on April 15, 2002. Amy assumed that the child’s father was Jason. Jason signed a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity and was listed as the father on J.W.’s birth certificate.

¶ 5 Amy and Jason married in March 2003, when J.W. was almost a year old. The couple later divorced in 2006. They entered into a marital settlement agreement, which was incorporated into the dissolution judgment. Pursuant to the terms of their agreement, which identified Jason as J.W.’s father, Amy had sole custody of J.W., and Jason had visitation rights and child support obligations.

¶ 6 After the divorce, J.W. experienced a lot of chaos in her life. In September 2008, Amy married Joe Merrill, who had three children from a previous relationship. Meanwhile, that summer, Steve viewed a picture of J.W. on Amy’s social media site, while seeking out old acquaintances. He saw a resemblance in J.W. and contacted Amy regarding the possibility that he was J.W.’s biological father. Thereafter, Steve, Amy, and J.W. submitted to DNA testing. About one week prior to Thanksgiving 2008, DNA results indicated Steve was J.W.’s biological father.

¶ 7 After receiving the DNA results, Amy temporarily separated from Joe, moved with J.W. from Catlin, Illinois, to Potomac, Illinois, where Steve resided, and placed J.W. in school there. Amy informed Jason that he was not the biological father. Over the holiday season, J.W. was introduced to Steve and his extended family and spent time with them between Thanksgiving 2008 and January 2009. J.W. was initially introduced to Steve and his family as friends, but was subsequently told by Amy at the end of December 2008 that Steve was her “real dad.” Amy never discussed with J.W. her understanding of her relationship to Steve.

¶ 8 In January 2009, Jason sought a temporary modification of custody or, alternatively, an order prohibiting Amy from cohabiting with any male not her lawful spouse while having physical custody of J.W. Amy and Jason agreed to modify the judgment of dissolution. Under the modified order, Amy was prohibited from residing or cohabiting with Steve, prohibited from allowing J.W. to have any contact with Steve, and prohibited from promoting the existence of any parent-child relationship between Steve and J.W. until further order of the court. Neither Steve nor his counsel was present or a party to that hearing in the dissolution proceeding. Thereafter, on February 4, 2009, Steve filed a verified petition to determine the existence of a parent-child relationship under the Parentage Act ( 750 ILCS 45/1 et seq. (West 2008)). In addition to establishing his paternity, Steve sought joint custody and visitation privileges pursuant to section 14(a)(1) of the Act. 750 ILCS 45/14(a)(1) (West 2008). Jason did not contest Steve’s petition to establish parentage, but sought a best-interests hearing on the issue of Steve’s right to visitation with J.W. At that time, J.W. was almost seven years old.

The order is entitled “order on January 9, 2009, hearing.” According to the record, the order was entered and filed on April 17, 2009. A transcript of the January 9 hearing has not been made part of the record on appeal.

The record reflects that after mentioning it in his petition, Steve never pursued joint custody of J.W.

¶ 9 On April 17, 2009, the trial court granted Steve’s motion to consolidate the dissolution proceeding between Amy and Jason with his parentage action. The record reflects that the no-contact order was entered at that time. Steve’s motion to appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL) for J.W. was also granted. Steve then filed a motion to vacate, modify, or reconsider the no-contact order. He argued that the order effectively barred him from any contact with J.W. in contravention of the relevant standards in determining his visitation rights under the Parentage Act. The trial court denied his motion. Meanwhile, a month after Steve filed his petition to determine paternity, Amy reunited with Joe and his three children. Amy and Joe later moved to Danville and had a child together.

¶ 10 On September 9, 2009, after additional DNA testing, the trial court entered a judgment declaring Steve to be the biological father of J.W. After an unsuccessful attempt at mediation, the court held a hearing on Steve’s right to visitation with J.W. Dr. Marilyn Frey, a clinical psychologist, was appointed by the trial court to conduct an evaluation to determine whether visitation between Steve and J.W. was in J.W.’s best interests. Dr. Frey testified that in August and September of 2010, she interviewed Steve, Amy, and Jason and observed J.W. interact with Jason and Amy. Dr. Frey testified at the hearing consistently with her evaluation report. She stated that J.W. was bonded with both Amy and Jason, and that J.W. indicated that she enjoyed spending time with Jason and his son from a subsequent relationship.

¶ 11 Dr. Frey acknowledged that Steve and J.W. had some sort of a relationship at one time, but recommended that it would not be in J.W.’s best interests to have contact with Steve at this time. It was Dr. Frey’s opinion that J.W. did not have the abstract reasoning skills at her age to understand Steve’s relationship to her or how Jason was not her “biological” father, and that the information could seriously impact her relationship with her mother. Dr. Frey also believed that introducing another father figure into J.W.’s life could put J.W. at risk emotionally, socially and academically, affect her sense of adequacy with her peers, and create a fear of abandonment. She was concerned about J.W. being exposed at eight years old to information regarding her relationship to Steve in such a small rural community. In forming the basis of her opinions, Dr. Frey used dolls and teddy bears and had J.W. identify them with a person from her family. During these exercises, J.W. identified numerous extended family members, but did not mention Steve as part of her family.

¶ 12 Dr. Frey testified that the basis of her predictions of risk were based, in part, upon the developmental theories of Erikson and Piaget, and 44 years of clinical experience. She acknowledged that she did not have “hardcore evidence” or research that involvement with Steve would have a negative impact on J.W. Dr. Frey also acknowledged that at the time she interviewed J.W., J.W. had already been introduced to another father figure, her new stepfather, Joe, and that she did not exhibit any of the potential risks Dr. Frey expressed as concerns. However, Dr. Frey stated that the situation with a stepfather was not comparable. She acknowledged that it was possible that J.W. could have a good relationship with Steve and could receive the benefits of spending time with Steve’s extended family. Dr. Frey also left open the possibility that at some time in the future it may be in J.W.’s best interests to be advised about Steve. In her report, Dr. Frey stated that “[o]nly with time and observation of and interactions with [J.W.] will it be possible to determine at what age she should be told about Steve.”

¶ 13 Steve presented the testimony of Dr. Judy Osgood, a clinical psychologist retained by him to review Dr. Frey’s report. Dr. Osgood reviewed the report and interviewed Steve in May 2011. Dr. Osgood testified that she believed that J.W. and Steve had spent a significant amount of time together and that it would be detrimental for J.W. to miss out on contact with Steve and his extended family, who showed J.W. love and affection. Dr. Osgood believed it was in J.W.’s best interests to resume contact with her biological father. In her opinion, Steve did not present any risk factors which would create any danger to J.W.

¶ 14 Dr. Osgood stated that, based upon the fact that J.W. was told Steve was her biological father, she believed that J.W. would question why he had now disappeared out of her life. It was her opinion that if J.W. could at least maintain a stable relationship with her biological father, that could be a constant in her life, where there had been a lot of inconsistency and instability. Dr. Osgood recommended that both J.W. and Steve meet with a counselor to assist J.W. in understanding that she was not going to lose her relationship with Jason, and believed that there could be a gradual progression of contact with Steve.

¶ 15 Dr. Osgood was critical of Dr. Frey for failing to observe J.W. and Steve together and believed that this interaction was a significant missing piece of Dr. Frey’s evaluation. She did not agree that merely because J.W. did not mention Steve in the session with Dr. Frey that there was no bond between them. It was Dr. Osgood’s opinion that the testing reflected the people that were currently in J.W.’s life, given the no-contact order, but did not mean that there was not a bond between them at one time, or that J.W. did not know her biological father. She believed it would be shortsighted to conclude that there was no bond. She found it significant that, although Steve was not allowed to continue contact with his daughter due to the court order, Steve’s sister continued to provide child care to J.W. until March 2010, when J.W. moved to Danville. Dr. Osgood acknowledged that she did not know what J.W. currently understood about her relationship to Steve.

¶ 16 Dr. Osgood explained that she was not retained to engage in a best-interests visitation evaluation. Rather, she characterized her role as providing a psychological report on Steve and providing an opinion as to his “position and credibility” in requesting visitation with J.W. She was not provided with the GAL’s report and did not have an opportunity to interview or evaluate J.W. She would have liked to have observed J.W. interact with Steve, but believed that the no-contact order prohibited her from observing them together. She further stated that she was not requested by counsel to evaluate them together.

¶ 17 Steve testified that he was employed with the railroad and resided in Potomac, Illinois, with his father. He has no other children and is not married. He has three sisters, who are all married with children. Upon finding out that J.W. was his biological child, he and his extended family were introduced to J.W. and engaged in many activities with her during the period from Thanksgiving of 2008 until January of 2009, when the court prohibited Amy from promoting a relationship between him and J.W. He introduced several photographs of their time together. Steve stated that he recognized that J.W. had many people in her life that loved her. He did not want to take away Jason’s right to visitation or disturb the relationship J.W. had developed with Jason and with her current stepfather, Joe. Steve testified that he wanted to be a part of J.W.’s life, to get to know her, to watch her grow up, to teach her how to do certain things, and be there to support her. He further testified that he had provided financial support for J.W.’s care.

¶ 18 Stephanie Bishop, Steve’s sister, testified that she started babysitting for J.W. after school in December 2008, when J.W. moved to Potomac and continued to provide child care until March 2010, when J.W. moved to Danville. Bishop and her sisters’ families were originally introduced to J.W. as Amy’s friends, and then, after Christmas 2008, they were referred to by J.W. as aunts and cousins and engaged in several activities together. Stephanie heard J.W. refer to Steve as “daddy” on many occasions.

¶ 19 Clarendin McCarty was J.W.’s first-grade teacher while she lived in Potomac from December 2008 until May 2009. McCarty knew Steve from high school and was friends with one of Steve’s sisters. McCarty testified that J.W. was very enthusiastic, academically a good student, and good with transitions. McCarty did not observe any anger or depression. J.W. spoke about two dads, “daddy Steve” and “daddy Jason,” and referred to Steve as her “real dad.” In February 2009, Steve came to a Valentine’s Day party at the school. Steve’s two nephews were also in the same class as J.W. at the school.

¶ 20 After hearing the evidence, the trial court allowed the GAL an opportunity to comment on whether the evidence presented at the hearing had changed his recommendations previously set forth in his report filed in June 2009. The report was admitted into evidence at the hearing. Therein, the GAL indicated that he met with J.W. in June 2009. At that time, he expressed concern with regard to all of the changes in J.W.’s life, including the divorce, her mother’s remarriage to Joe, being taken abruptly out of her school, and being removed from her home and placed with a new set of children in a new school. The GAL noted that during the meeting with J.W. in June 2009, J.W. did not include Steve as someone in her family, when given an opportunity to tell him about her family. When asked about what was new in her life or if there were any surprises, J.W. did not mention Steve in her life. When asked about her babysitter, if the babysitter had any brothers, and if Steve was the babysitter’s brother, J.W. responded that Steve was the babysitter’s friend and her mother’s friend.

¶ 21 The GAL further found that J.W. had a very strong bond with Jason. The GAL did not believe that Steve posed any serious endangerment to J.W., but was concerned that introducing him into J.W.’s life could detrimentally impact her stability. He recommended that it was not in J.W.’s best interests to be introduced to Steve at this stage in her life. However, if the court were to order visitation, he believed it should be gradual and with extensive counseling. At the hearing, he acknowledged that his opinions were based upon his perspective, without having a degree in psychology. He essentially deferred to the opinions and recommendations made by Dr. Frey, but felt even stronger about his recommendation after hearing Dr. Frey’s testimony.

¶ 22 Amy did not testify at the hearing.

¶ 23 The trial court determined that based upon this court’s precedent, Steve had the burden of proving that visitation would be in J.W.’s best interests by a preponderance of the evidence. The court applied the “best interests” factors as set forth in section 602 of the Marriage Act (750 ILCS 5/602 (West 2010)). Specifically, the court found the following factors applicable to the circumstances: the wishes of the child’s parent or parents as to custody; the interaction and interrelationship of the child with the parent or parents, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests; the child’s adjustment to home, school, and the community; and the mental and physical health of everyone involved.

¶ 24 The trial court considered that Steve sincerely sought to establish a close parent-child relationship and desired visitation. The court indicated that Amy’s desire was unclear, having taken conflicting positions. At the time of the GAL report, she seemed desirous of visitation, but at the time of trial, she did not support Steve’s efforts to obtain visitation. The court also noted Jason’s opposition to Steve’s visitation with J.W.

¶ 25 With respect to the experts, the court found Dr. Frey’s opinions more persuasive than those of Dr. Osgood. The court noted that Dr. Frey’s observations of J.W. did not support an existing close relationship between Steve and J.W. and that Dr. Frey’s explanations regarding J.W.’s inability to process Steve’s relationship to her and the increased risk it posed were credible. The court further found Dr. Osgood’s opinions not persuasive because she did not perform any independent testing of J.W. and relied instead upon her impressions related by Steve of a close and loving relationship.

¶ 26 The court indicated that the most weight was given to what J.W. perceived at the time of her evaluation. The court found that based upon Dr. Frey’s testing and the GAL interview, J.W. did not understand Steve to be her father. She identified Jason as her father because of their long-standing loving relationship. The court noted that Steve had no regular contact with J.W. since January 2009 and his involvement was limited to a five—or six-week period of time, where much of that time he was thought to be a family friend. The court was concerned about the increased risk of harm if the court disregarded J.W.’s current lack of understanding of the situation. Based on these findings, the court held that it was not in J.W.’s best interests for Steve to be introduced or reintroduced into her life at this time.

¶ 27 In ruling, the court also considered Steve’s argument that under section 602(c) of the Marriage Act there is a presumption that “the maximum involvement and cooperation of both parents regarding the physical, mental, moral, and emotional well-being of their child is in the best interest of the child.” 750 ILCS 5/602(c) (West 2010). The court found that the presumption was not relevant to the facts and circumstances presented here, and that even if the presumption applied, it was rebutted by Dr. Frey’s testimony that Steve’s involvement was not in J.W.’s best interests at this time.

¶ 28 The court denied Steve’s petition for visitation, and ordered that all parties and their families not promote the existence of a parental relationship between Steve and J.W. The court additionally ordered that J.W. be evaluated annually “to determine [her] understanding of the identification of her father.” The order provided that if during the annual evaluation, J.W. demonstrates “an understanding that [Steve] is her father,” all parties shall be notified within 10 days. Issues with regard to child support were reserved.

¶ 29 Thereafter, the trial court entered an agreed order on Amy’s petition to set child support. The parties agreed that Steve would pay Amy child support for J.W. in the amount of $300 per month in addition to an arrearage in child support of $4,500. The order noted that although the amount deviated from the guidelines, it was reasonable and appropriate under the unique circumstances of this case because Jason also pays child support to Amy for J.W.

¶ 30 On appeal, Steve argued that the trial court erred in holding that the burden of proof is on the noncustodial parent seeking visitation under the Parentage Act to establish that visitation is in the best interests of the minor child. He maintained that as a biological parent he enjoyed a presumption, entitling him to visitation under section 607(a) of the Marriage Act absent evidence of serious endangerment to the child. 2012 IL App (4th) 120212, ¶¶ 35–36, 362 Ill.Dec. 111972 N.E.2d 826. The appellate court considered the conflicting appellate court case law on the appropriate standard, including its own prior Fourth District case of Department of Public Aid ex rel. Gagnon–Dix v. Gagnon, 288 Ill.App.3d 424, 428223 Ill.Dec. 776680 N.E.2d 509 (1997), which rejected the application of section 607(a) as the relevant standard under the Parentage Act. Id. ¶ 34. The appellate court then noted that other appellate court decisions had disagreed with Gagnon. Relying on those cases, the court concluded, without engaging in any statutory construction of its own, that section 607(a) of the Marriage Act is the relevant standard to be considered when determining visitation rights in cases brought under the Parentage Act or the Marriage Act. Id. ¶¶ 35–39.

¶ 31 However, in reaching its conclusion, the appellate court emphasized the factual circumstances of this case, highlighting that there was “no delay on Steve’s part in attempting to establish a healthy, meaningful relationship with J.W.” Id. ¶ 41. The court stated, “[w]e are confident trial courts can sort out those cases such as Gagnon, where a biological father sought visitation after no contact for eight years, and [cases] where a presumed father eagerly sought continued visitation and contact with the son born during his marriage to the child’s mother.” Id. ¶ 39. Thus, the court seemed to suggest that whether the presumption in section 607(a) is relevant under the Parentage Act is not a question of law but, rather, depends upon the facts and circumstances of the case.

¶ 32 The appellate court held that Steve was entitled to reasonable visitation rights unless visitation would seriously endanger J.W.’s physical, mental, moral, or emotional health. Id. ¶ 40. The court found that the evidence did not support a finding of serious endangerment. Accordingly, it reversed and remanded with directions for the trial court to create and implement a reasonable visitation plan. Id. ¶ 52.

¶ 33 We subsequently allowed Jason’s petition for leave to appeal. Ill. S.Ct. R. 315 (eff. Feb. 26, 2010). Additionally, we allowed the amicus curiae briefs of the Cook County public guardian, the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc., and the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. Ill. S.Ct. R. 345 (eff. Sept. 20, 2010).

¶ 34 ANALYSIS

¶ 35 I

¶ 36 The question presented by this appeal is a narrow one: What is the proper standard to be applied when a biological father seeks visitation privileges after a determination of parentage under section 14(a)(1) of the Parentage Act (750 ILCS 45/14(a)(1) (West 2010)). This question requires us to construe section 14(a)(1) and its interrelationship to the provisions in the Marriage Act referring to a noncustodial parent’s entitlement to reasonable visitation under section 607(a) (750 ILCS 5/607(a) (West 2010)).

 At the outset, we note that Jason has never challenged Steve’s standing to establish the existence of a parent-child relationship, and no attempt has been made or order entered disavowing Jason’s parental rights either under the Parentage Act or under the judgment of dissolution. Accordingly, for purposes of this appeal, we make no determination with regard to either party’s standing, or as to Jason’s continued legal status as a parent. Those issues are not presently before this court.

¶ 37 Familiar principles of statutory construction guide our analysis. Our primary objective is to give effect to the legislature’s intent. In re C.C., 2011 IL 111795, ¶ 30, 355 Ill.Dec. 25959 N.E.2d 53. In determining that intent, we may properly consider the statutory language, the reason and necessity for the law, the evils to be remedied and the statute’s ultimate purpose and objective. Carter v. SSC Odin Operating Co., 2012 IL 113204, ¶ 37, 364 Ill.Dec. 66976 N.E.2d 344. When construing the language of the statute, we must view the statute as a whole, construing words and phrases in light of other relevant statutory provisions and not in isolation. Id.Our review is de novo. Mashal v. City of Chicago, 2012 IL 112341, ¶ 21, 367 Ill.Dec. 223981 N.E.2d 951.

¶ 38 The Parentage Act establishes a comprehensive scheme for determining paternity and for establishing custody, visitation, and child support obligations in connection with a judgment of paternity. Under the Act, once paternity is established, section 14(a)(1) provides in pertinent part that the judgment “ maycontain provisions concerning * * * visitation privileges with the child.” (Emphasis added.) 750 ILCS 45/14(a)(1) (West 2010). Decisions regarding visitation

“shall [be] determine[d] in accordance with the relevant factors set forth in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act [750 ILCS 5/101 et seq.] and any other applicable law of Illinois, to guide the court in a finding in the best interests of the child. In determining custody, joint custody, removal, or visitation, the court shall apply the relevant standards of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, including Section 609.” 750 ILCS 45/14(a)(1) (West 2010).
Thus, section 14(a)(1) expressly provides that an award of visitation is discretionary, directs the trial court to make a “finding in the best interests of the child,” and to apply the “relevant standards” of the Marriage Act.

¶ 39 We have previously held that under the express terms of the Parentage Act, a judgment of paternity does not automatically entitle a biological father to visitation. Rather, the “privilege” of visitation is subordinate to the best interests of the child. J.S.A. v. M.H., 224 Ill.2d 182, 211309 Ill.Dec. 6863 N.E.2d 236 (2007)(“[T]he right of a biological father to establish paternity to a child born to a marriage does not also mean that the legal rights flowing from the parent and child relationship are automatically conferred.”); In re Parentage of John M., 212 Ill.2d 253, 264–65, 288 Ill.Dec. 142817 N.E.2d 500 (2004).

¶ 40 In J.S.A., this court reiterated that “the Parentage Act specifically provides in section 14(a)(1) that decisions regarding the involvement of the biological father in the life of the child are to be governed solely by what is in the child’s best interests.” J.S.A., 224 Ill.2d at 211309 Ill.Dec. 6863 N.E.2d 236. We explained that “ ‘even though paternity may be established upon the filing of a petition pursuant to section 7(a), any parental rights of the biological father, such as the right to have custody of, or visitation with, the child, shall not be granted unless it is in the child’s best interest.” ’ Id. at 212, 309 Ill.Dec. 6863 N.E.2d 236 (quoting Parentage of John M., 212 Ill.2d at 265288 Ill.Dec. 142817 N.E.2d 500). Accordingly, under the statutory scheme, after a declaration of paternity, the court is “required to conduct a best-interests hearing to determine whether, and to what extent, the natural father may exercise any rights with respect to the child.” Id. We further held that “both parties may introduce evidence either in support of, or in opposition to, the natural father being granted parental rights to his biological child.” Id.

¶ 41 As this court has long emphasized, the best interests of the child is the “guiding star” by which all matters affecting children must be decided. Nye v. Nye,411 Ill. 408, 415105 N.E.2d 300 (1952). Nevertheless, we have not specifically been called upon to consider which provisions of the Marriage Act are “relevant” to guide the court in a finding in the best interests of the child in the context of a paternity action where visitation is at issue.

¶ 42 Initially, we observe that our appellate court has previously ruled inconsistently on this issue. Some cases have applied the best-interests provisions set forth in section 602 of the Marriage Act, which lists several nonexclusive factors the court is to consider and weigh in making any custody determination. 750 ILCS 5/602(a)(West 2010). Other cases have applied the visitation provisions of section 607(a), which presumes visitation is in the best interests of the child absent evidence of serious endangerment. Compare Wittendorf v. Worthington,2012 IL App (4th) 120525, 366 Ill.Dec. 661, 980 N.E.2d 754;Department of Public Aid ex rel. Gagnon–Dix v. Gagnon, 288 Ill.App.3d 424, 428223 Ill.Dec. 776680 N.E.2d 509 (4th Dist.1997)(finding that the reference in section 14(a)(1) of the Parentage Act to the Marriage Act was a reference to section 602 and did not incorporate section 607(a)), with Jines v. Jurich, 335 Ill.App.3d 1156, 1162270 Ill.Dec. 572783 N.E.2d 147(5th Dist.2002)(the plain language of the Parentage Act requires courts to use the standards for visitation outlined in section 607(a) of the Marriage Act); In re Parentage of Melton, 314 Ill.App.3d 476, 480247 Ill.Dec. 295732 N.E.2d 11 (1st Dist.2000)(“the factors for determining visitation privileges in section 607(a) * * * guide visitation determinations under the Parentage Act”); Wenzelman v. Bennett,322 Ill.App.3d 262, 265255 Ill.Dec. 196748 N.E.2d 1266 (2001) (where a prior parent-child relationship existed, a presumption existed in favor of the biological parent for visitation and parent was not required to prove visitation was in the child’s best interests).

¶ 43 Steve maintains that the appellate court correctly concluded that section 14(a)(1) incorporates the visitation provisions of section 607(a) of the Marriage Act as the “relevant” standard in considering visitation privileges arising out of a paternity action. Section 607(a) of the Marriage Act provides:

“[a] parent not granted custody of the child is entitled to reasonable visitation rights unless the court finds, after a hearing, that visitation would endanger seriously the child’s physical, mental, moral or emotional health.” 750 ILCS 5/607(a) (West 2008).
Thus, under section 607(a) of the Marriage Act, the General Assembly has established a presumption that it is in the best interests of the child to have reasonable visitation with a noncustodial parent, and the burden is on the custodial parent to prove that visitation would seriously endanger the child. In re Marriage of Fields, 283 Ill.App.3d 894, 905219 Ill.Dec. 420671 N.E.2d 85 (1996). The “serious endangerment” standard has been described as a high burden that is “onerous, stringent, and rigorous.” In re Marriage of Diehl, 221 Ill.App.3d 410, 429164 Ill.Dec. 73582 N.E.2d 281 (1991); see, e.g., In re Marriage of Pleasant, 256 Ill.App.3d 742, 751195 Ill.Dec. 169628 N.E.2d 633 (1993) (finding that the standard is “an extraordinary” one and “is more stringent than the best interests standard”); In re Marriage of Lombaer, 200 Ill.App.3d 712, 724146 Ill.Dec. 425558 N.E.2d 388 (1990) (evidence of mother’s hospitalization for mental condition and failure to take psychiatric medication was insufficient to meet the onerous standard of serious endangerment to the children).

¶ 44 Although section 607(a) speaks to visitation, the Parentage Act does not expressly refer to section 607. Thus, to understand whether this presumption and the “serious endangerment” standard are “relevant” to a best-interests hearing on visitation under section 14(a)(1) of the Parentage Act, we consider the legislative purpose for the presumption as well as the high burden established to overcome it.

¶ 45 When the General Assembly enacted the Marriage Act in 1977, it substantially adopted the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act (Uniform Marriage Act). See Unif. Marriage and Divorce Act § 101, 9A U.L.A. 171 (1998); Ill.Ann.Stat., ch. 40, ¶ 101, Historical & Practice Notes, at 6–7 (Smith–Hurd 1980) (referencing the Uniform Marriage Act). Section 607(a) of the Marriage Act is derived from section 407 of the Uniform Marriage Act. Ill.Ann.Stat., ch. 40, ¶ 607, Historical Note, at 70 (Smith–Hurd 1980). The comment to this section in the Uniform Marriage Act explains why the “serious endangerment” language was chosen:

“Although the standard is necessarily somewhat vague, it was deliberately chosen to indicate its stringency when compared to the ‘best interest’ standard traditionally applied to this problem. The special standard was chosen to prevent the denial of visitation to the noncustodial parent on the basis of moral judgments about parental behavior which have no relevance to the parent’s interest in or capacity to maintain a close and benign relationship to the child. The same onerous standard is applicable when the custodial parent tries to have the noncustodial parent’s visitation privileges restricted or eliminated.” Unif. Marriage and Divorce Act § 407, 9A U.L.A. 398–99, cmt. (1998).
Thus, the onerous standard derives from the general principle that in matters of visitation, as in custody, the primary concern is the welfare of the child. In a postdissolution setting, the legislature has presumed it to be in the child’s best interests to maintain a continued, meaningful relationship with both parents after the dissolution. See also 750 ILCS 5/102(2) (West 2010) (stating that one of the underlying purposes of the Act is to safeguard family relationships); In re Marriage of Seitzinger, 333 Ill.App.3d 103, 112266 Ill.Dec. 720775 N.E.2d 282 (2002)(noting that the best interests of the child is normally fostered by continuing a healthy and close relationship with the noncustodial parent); Pleasant, 256 Ill.App.3d at 751195 Ill.Dec. 169628 N.E.2d 633 (“[t]here is a strong public policy to preserve the relationship between a parent and child”).

¶ 46 This general policy is also reflected in section 607(c) of the Marriage Act by limiting the court’s power to restrict visitation rights in those circumstances. 750 ILCS 5/607(c) (West 2010); see also Ill.Ann.Stat., ch. 40, ¶ 607, Historical & Practice Notes, at 70 (Smith–Hurd 1980) (“The public policy of Illinois maintains that it is beneficial for a child to have a healthy and close relationship with both parents even after divorce [citations] and that visitation privileges should not be awarded or withheld as a punishment or reward to either parent.”).

¶ 47 As a result, the presumptive right to visitation in section 607(a) of the Marriage Act, drafted over 30 years ago, is in keeping with the traditional model of a family paradigm, where each parent has presumably exercised custody over the child and one parent will now be granted custody and the other reasonable visitation. Such a presumption reflects a legislative recognition of the need to protect the preexisting parent-child bond that presumably developed prior to the divorce or separation of two parents. Thus, to overcome the presumption that visitation is in the best interests of the child in custody proceedings filed by a parent under the Marriage Act, the General Assembly sought a higher, more stringent burden on the custodial parent than merely the traditional best-interests factors.

¶ 48 In contrast, in actions under the Parentage Act, paternity is at issue and must first be proved. At the time visitation is sought, a relationship with the child may not have ever been forged, especially where paternity is established long after birth. See 750 ILCS 45/8(a)(1) (West 2010) (recognizing that the statute of limitations for raising paternity is two years after the minor reaches the age of majority). Additionally, the paradigm of preserving or continuing the parent-child relationship of a traditional intact family unit does not accurately reflect many family situations. See, e.g., Siobhan Morrissey, The New Neighbors: Domestic Relations Law Struggles to Catch Up With Changes in Family Life, 88 ABA J. 37, 38 (March 2002) (“The domestic unit in early 21st century America [has become] a crazy quilt of one-parent households, blended families, singles, unmarried partnerships and same-sex unions.”). Thus, in parentage actions, issues of visitation may arise under situations where the court may be asked to balance several competing interests related to the child.

¶ 49 As this case illustrates, there are many factors that may be relevant to whether visitation is in a child’s best interests in the context of a paternity action. An alleged father seeking to determine his paternity and subsequent entitlement to visitation privileges may be confronted with an already existing meaningful relationship between a presumed father and a child, where the biological father has had no previous contact with the child. Alternatively, the alleged father may have been living with the child prior to a determination of paternity, or the marriage between the child’s mother and a presumed father may have disintegrated so that there is not necessarily an “intact family.” Additionally, there may be scenarios where a biological father may be the only person in the child’s life who can effectuate the strong public policy of providing for the physical, mental, emotional, and monetary support of the child. 750 ILCS 45/1.1 (West 2010).

¶ 50 Given the myriad relationships that may evolve outside the parameters of a dissolution proceeding, the General Assembly could not have predetermined with such broad strokes that the presumptive entitlement to reasonable visitation absent “serious endangerment” is in a child’s best interests in every parentage action, without giving the court the flexibility to consider the facts and circumstances of each case. Rather, the plain language of section 14(a)(1), giving the court discretion in awarding visitation and requiring “a finding in the best interests of the child,” contemplates a hearing where the court has the flexibility to consider whether, and to what extent, the biological father may now exercise visitation rights with respect to the child. (Emphasis added.) 750 ILCS 45/14(a)(1)(West 2010); J.S.A., 224 Ill.2d at 212309 Ill.Dec. 6863 N.E.2d 236. Accordingly, the “serious endangerment” standard under section 607(a) would undercut the court’s statutory authority under section 14(a)(1) of the Parentage Act to deliberate and weigh factors relevant to making a “finding in the best interests of the child.”

¶ 51 The provisions of section 602 of the Marriage Act are broader and allow the court to take into account the facts and circumstances of each case. Section 602(a) sets forth a nonexclusive list of best-interests factors that the trial court shall consider in making determinations related to custody. 750 ILCS 5/602(a) (West 2010). We have previously described visitation as a form of custody. In re M.M., 156 Ill.2d 53, 62189 Ill.Dec. 1619 N.E.2d 702 (1993). Those relevant factors include: (1) the wishes of the child’s parent(s); (2) the wishes of the child; (3) the interaction and interrelationship of the child with the parent(s), siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests; (4) the child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community; (5) the mental and physical health of the involved individuals; (6) the potential for violence or threat of violence; (7) the occurrence of ongoing or repeated abuse; (8) the willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child; (9) whether one of the parents is a sex offender; and (10) military obligations. 750 ILCS 5/602(a) (West 2010). These factors best promote the legislative intent under the Parentage Act given the nature of the proceedings.

¶ 52 We recognize, as Steve points out, that section 602(c) incorporates the policy of the Marriage Act that “the maximum involvement and cooperation of both parents regarding the physical, mental, moral, and emotional well-being of their child is in the best interest of the child.” 750 ILCS 5/602(c) (West 2010). In that regard, we note that the trial court erred in stating that this presumption was not relevant to the best-interests hearing. Rather, the presumption is indeed relevant, but unlike the onerous “serious endangerment” standard in section 607(a), it may be overcome if, after considering the relevant factors, the court finds it is not in the child’s best interests to grant visitation privileges.

¶ 53 Accordingly, for the foregoing reasons, it was error for the appellate court to apply the “serious endangerment” standard of section 607(a). We hold that in a proceeding to determine visitation privileges under section 14(a)(1) of the Parentage Act, the initial burden is on the petitioner to show that visitation will be in the best interests of the child pursuant to the provisions set forth in section 602 of the Marriage Act. To the extent that Wenzelman, Jines and In re Parentage of Melton contradict our conclusion, they are expressly overruled.

¶ 54 II

¶ 55 We next consider whether the trial court erred in determining that it was not in J.W.’s best interests to have visitation with Steve at this time. A

 trial court’s determination as to the best interests of the child will not be reversed on appeal unless it is clearly against the manifest weight of the evidence and it appears that a manifest injustice has occurred. In re Marriage of Eckert, 119 Ill.2d 316, 328, 116 Ill.Dec. 220, 518 N.E.2d 1041 (1988). A judgment is against the manifest weight of the evidence only when the opposite conclusion is clearly apparent. In re A.P.,2012 IL 113875, ¶ 17, 367 Ill.Dec. 11981 N.E.2d 336.

¶ 56 Dr. Frey, the court-appointed expert, and Dr. Osgood, Steve’s retained expert, disputed J.W.’s cognitive understanding of her relationship to Steve and its implications for her best interests. They disagreed about the risks that introducing or reintroducing Steve into J.W.’s life would have on her emotional well-being and stability and the risk to her bond with Jason, whom she has known as her father for her entire life.

¶ 57 The testimony of Dr. Frey and the GAL supports the trial court’s conclusion that visitation was not in the best interests of J.W. at this stage in her life. Based upon various testing procedures, and the evaluation and interviews with J.W., it was their opinion that, despite the fact that Steve and J.W. had spent some time together, at this stage in her cognitive development, J.W. did not understand Steve to be her father and was unable to process a relationship with him. Dr. Frey believed that disrupting her life by introducing Steve as her father at this stage, given her current chaotic life circumstances, would potentially increase her risk of instability, disrupt her emotional well-being, and could be detrimental to her long-standing relationship with Jason and her mother.

¶ 58 Dr. Osgood disagreed with Dr. Frey’s premise and believed that Steve and his family had developed a close and meaningful bond with J.W. and believed that it would be detrimental to now disrupt that relationship. Dr. Osgood was critical of Dr. Frey’s failure to observe Steve with J.W. Nevertheless, the trial court found that Dr. Osgood’s opinions were not persuasive where she did not interview J.W. to understand her perception of her relationship with Steve, did not perform any independent testing, and instead relied solely on her review of Dr. Frey’s report and an interview with Steve. Dr. Osgood did not refute any of Dr. Frey’s testing methods.

¶ 59 The court considered that Steve was genuinely interested in having a relationship with J.W., and considered the experiences Steve had with J.W. in late 2008 and early 2009, which were supported by his sister’s testimony and other evidence. Nevertheless, after weighing the relevant best-interests factors, the court ultimately found any presumption that it was in J.W.’s best interests to promote a parent-child relationship was rebutted by the evidence. In making its findings, the court relied upon the actions and behavior of J.W. as recounted by Dr. Frey and the GAL, and their concern for increased risk of harm to her at this stage in her concrete cognitive development. We cannot say that the trial court’s ruling was clearly against the manifest weight of the evidence.

¶ 60 We note, and as Jason’s counsel points out, the trial court’s order and the statutory framework do not foreclose the possibility that in the future it may be in J.W.’s best interests to have a meaningful relationship with her biological father and to reintroduce him into her life. Steve has shown a committed interest in developing a relationship with J.W. and has adhered to his parental responsibilities of support. The no-contact order in no way reflects a lack of desire on Steve’s part to be a part of J.W.’s life. Nor should the no-contact order prohibit Steve in any future proceeding from having his own expert evaluate J.W. Rather, as reflected by the court’s annual evaluation requirement, the denial of visitation was focused on J.W. and her circumstances at her stage of development at the time of the hearing. The parties and the court acknowledged that J.W. is a very resilient, strong, adaptable child, despiteall of the chaos in her life. As she grows and develops, as Dr. Frey indicated, future evaluation of J.W. may suggest a different outcome.

¶ 61 CONCLUSION

¶ 62 For all of the foregoing reasons, we hold that the trial court correctly concluded that in a proceeding to entertain a petition for visitation privileges under section 14(a)(1) of the Parentage Act, the initial burden is on the petitioner to show that visitation will be in the best interests of the child pursuant to the provisions set forth in section 602 of the Marriage Act. Additionally, we conclude that the trial court’s ruling, that it was not in J.W.’s best interests to award visitation privileges at this stage, was not against the manifest weight of the evidence. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the appellate court and affirm the judgment of the circuit court.

¶ 63 Appellate court judgment reversed.

¶ 64 Circuit court judgment affirmed.

Chief Justice KILBRIDE and Justices FREEMAN, THOMAS, GARMAN, KARMEIER, and BURKE concurred in the judgment and opinion.

From FB: Judge actually awards sanctions against lying DCFS workers who lied to remove kids and place them in abusive foster care system

http://www.fox5atlanta.com/news/judge-orders-largest-sanctions-ever-against-cps-for-lying-to-remove-kids?fbclid=IwAR2UJF6jlu3o3qJ9_VdatNVk-y6frmxXq_gJpGFRdR6O9p4N4I9G_iYde-4

 – “This is by far the largest sanction I’ve ever been a part of or ever heard of being imposed against CPS,” said attorney Dennis Slate.

Family Law Judge Mike Schneider says he would have made Child Protective Services pay even more but didn’t want to burden taxpayers.

The judge found CPS case worker Levar Jones and his supervisor Niesha Edwards lied in order to take Michael and Melissa Bright’s 2-year-old daughter and 5-month-old son away from them.

“And the fact that CPS still has those two people employed is disgusting,” said attorney Stephanie Proffitt.

“I think people would be really concerned if they actually sat here and listened to all of these days worth of CPS covering up the lies they told,” Slate said.

The Brights’ 2-year-old daughter ended up being abused in foster care.

“We’ve got a little girl with a black eye and basically an acidic burn in her diaper area,” Proffitt said. “She didn’t even make it to foster care until 10 or 11 o’clock at night and by the next morning all of these things had already happened to her.”

Judge Schneider ordered CPS to pay the Brights $127,000 for legal fees and other expenses for a case he said should have never been brought against them.

“I’m glad it’s over. We can just go on and be a family,” said Melissa Bright.

“We can go home free and clear without any allegations with our children,” Michael Bright said.

Judge Schneider also gave CPS until December 5 to come up with a plan to retrain almost every CPS worker in the Houston region.

“The law on removal, the process on removal, and making sure parents are told about the removal of their children,” said Slate.

“It’s an unfortunate epidemic and until someone like Judge Schneider makes CPS accountable it’s going to continue,” Proffitt said.

In a statement CPS says,” In light of today’s ruling we are reviewing our options including our right to appeal.”

But if CPS appeals and loses, the judge said the agency will have to pay all legal expenses.

From Chic.TribBN: Accts manager at Suburban financial institution stole $300k+ from elderly clients

https://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/ct-met-dupage-theft-sentence-st-1211-story.html

Suburban account manager who stole from elderly clients sentenced to 4 years in prison

Clifford WardDaily Southtown

A retired nurse in her 90s testified how her questions helped uncover thefts committed by a west suburban financial institution account manager who was sentenced Monday to four years in prison.

Christine Lang, 48, of Summit, was sentenced Monday on a count of felony theft in DuPage County court. The former account manager at the Trust Company of Illinois in Downers Grove, stole $328,000 from the accounts of three elderly clients and spent much of the money at riverboat casinos, DuPage County prosecutors said.

One of the victims, a woman in her 90s, testified at Lange’s sentencing hearing that she called Lange in 2016 when TCI failed to mail her quarterly statements. Lange promised to send a statement but failed to do so, the woman said. TCI finally mailed her a statement, and the woman said her account balance was down by $58,000.

“It made me sick to my stomach,” she said. She reported the issue to police, who began an investigation that led to Lange’s arrest.

Assistant State’s Atty. Lynn Cavallo said Lange spent a lot of the stolen funds on riverboat gambling. She lost more than $200,000 at one Joliet casino, authorities said.

“When she went gambling, she didn’t use her own paycheck. She spent the lifelines of three elderly people,” Cavallo told Judge Robert Miller.

Authorities say that Lange stole the money over a four-year period and made 84 illegal transfers from the accounts of the victims to her own account.

Lange, who had no previous record, tearfully apologized and said she was ashamed by her actions. She asked for probation so she could continue to help her parents, but the judge said her crime called for a prison sentence.

“You picked on the most vulnerable people in society, and you did it 84 separate times,” Miller told Lange.

Miller said Lange’s crimes were also a form of gambling – Lange gambled that the victims would die or not notice the thefts, and she gambled that she wouldn’t be caught. But Lange failed to outwit the retired nurse, Miller said. The elderly woman walked with the help of a cane and had her daughter stand by her for emotional support as she took the witness stand, testifying in a clear, sharp manner.

“You picked the wrong person. She’ll probably outlive us all,” the judge told Lange.

Miller ordered Lange to pay TCI $328,000 in restitution. The financial company reimbursed the victims of the thefts.

Clifford Ward is a freelance reporter.

Copyright © 2018, Chicago Tribune
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Now if we can only get them to go after the corrupt lawyers and judges in probate that allow litigants to steal, there could be additional millions recovered.

From EB and AA: a Juryless court system threatens our democracy and the integrity of our US court system

From: Adequacy Assurance <adequacyassurance@yahoo.com>
Sent: Thursday, December 6, 2018 5:26 PM
To: adequacyassurance@gmail.com
Subject: ACCOUNTABILITY/ COURT-CORRUPTION / DUE PROCESS TASKFORCE—-U.S. LAW ENFORCEMENT/EDUCATORS/ PRESS: STOP THE THEFTS FROM AMERICAN CITIZENS, & ENFORCE OUR RIGHTS TO TRIAL BY JURY

U.S. Institute of Science
Adequacy Assurance-Collegiate (Constitutional) Research Group

____________________________

In Re: COURT-CORRUPTION / DUE PROCESS TASKFORCE—-U.S. LAW ENFORCEMENT/EDUCATORS/ PRESS: STOP THE THEFTS FROM AMERICAN CITIZENS, & ENFORCE OUR RIGHTS TO TRIAL BY JURY
Dear Honorable Law Enforcement Officers/ US Citizens,

I would like to bring your attention to the “Juryless Process Abuse Epidemic”, that is currently plaguing our country, and unlawfully stripping away assets from some of our most vulnerable citizens/seniors/parents/divorcees/property-owners…a situation that we have become aware of—and seen the evidence. Too often “juryless” courts are being used as a tool to racketeer/steal assets from American hard working citizens & families, and intentionally wrongly award them to probate networks including “attorneys“, “guardians”, “fiduciaries”, etc., via cooperating “probate/juryless judges”, acting in contravention to law. These racketeering uses of our court facilities, “federally and state defined felonies” (of the corruption, obstruction, grand theft/embezzlement, jury, witness, & evidence tampering, etc. varieties), are immensely adding-to/creating the civil unrest, chaos, crime & debt rates on the streets….which in turn is endangering, harming, and KILLING POLICE OFFICERS and the general citizenry alike, this very day. Just recently, Attorney General Jeff Sessions reported a 61% increase in police officers killed this very year…NOW IS THE TIME TO PROSECUTE!

I am of the great hope that you, from your position and dedication to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, and your personal stake herein, will take the necessary steps to ensure that these abuses are stopped and due process is in fact being provided and protected, including minimally:

1.Identify courts operating without juries in your area & jurisdiction, detailing those sitting without a jury in the courtroom, as well as those without sufficient jury review and oversight of “proposed findings” and litigant objections, etc.

2.Ensure that in your department, as well as on a state/federal level, that there is an adequate task force apprised and charged with identifying and prosecuting any/all illegal exploitation of juryless court facilities/functions, which would include the wrongful removals of proper grand/trial jury function and the facilitation/enabling of organized crime/wrongdoing, “court”/”attorney”/”bar” exploitation of litigants, assets, etc.; and personally ensuring that those findings are presented to the district grand jury for process, minimally

It has long been proven that Juryless Governance is a breeding ground for organized crime, racketeering, and crime in general—preventing the same being one of the main reason for the establishment of this country. As these are urgent matters that expand and exaggerate unnecessarily the crime and debt rates on our streets this very day, they are well within your authority and best interest to investigate and bring to justice. I look forward to your efforts in stopping these CRIMES & UNCONSTITUTIONAL activities, RESTORING PROPER GRAND/TRIAL JURY FUNCTION. As always, my staff and I are available to assist you in any way possible. Please stay safe as you protect our communities, and may God Bless you and the United States of America.

Sincerely,

U.S. Institute of Science
A Government/Law Studies Research Science Group
Adequacy Assurance-Collegiate (Constitutional) Research Group
Email us: AdequacyAssurance@yahoo.com