Final divorce order supersedes and moots appeal from visitation order

The Eckersalls’ divorce included a fight over custody of their children. The couple agreed on a visitation schedule, but not on the terms and conditions of visitation. So the trial court entered a standard “Custody/Visitation Injunction Order” that in essence prevented either spouse from addressing the divorce case with the children.

Catherine Eckersall appealed the order because she felt it interfered with her parenting rights. The First District Illinois Appellate Court dismissed the appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction. The court ruled that the custody/visitation injunction order was not really an injunction and could not be appealed before the end of the lawsuit. After that appeal was dismissed, the trial court finalized the Eckersalls’ divorce.

But Catherine was still upset about the custody/visitation order. She appealed the appellate court’s dismissal to the Illinois Supreme Court. The supreme court took the case, but in the end ruled that the custody/visitation order was moot because it was superseded by the trial court’s final divorce order.

The supreme court rejected Catherine’s argument that the public interest trumped the mootness doctrine. The supreme court ruled:

  • The issues arising from the form custody/visitation order did not have “sufficient breadth” and did not have “a significant effect on the public as a whole.”
  • Conflicting case opinions did not exist, so there was no “need for an authoritative determination for the future guidance of public officers.”
  • Future recurrence of the question was not likely, especially “as evidenced by the lack of [past] litigation regarding the issue.”

Because Catherine’s appeal was moot, the supreme court also did not have appellate jurisdiction. Catherine’s appeal never was considered by an appellate court.

Click here to read the whole opinion, IRMO Eckersall III, 2015 IL 117922 (3/23/15).