The Fifth District Appellate Court has ruled that St. Clair County Circuit Judge Stephen McGlynn erred when he made a Belleville woman the guardian of her 6-year-old granddaughter whose father allegedly has drug and mental health problems.
On April 12, the court reversed McGlynn's July 2016 decision to appoint "Linda T." as guardian of her granddaughter identified in the court ruling as "S.M.T." The court reversed the decision because Linda lacked standing to file the guardianship petition, and the trial court lacked jurisdiction to proceed on the petition, the Rule 23 decision states.
The appellate court found that Linda failed to show evidence that the girl’s biological mother, Chatelle K., was “unwilling or unable to make and carry out day-to-day child-care decisions concerning S.M.T." and Chatelle did not have the burden of proving that she was "fit.”
Justices Thomas Welch, James Moore and David Overstreet made up the appellate panel.
According to background information in the ruling, S.M.T. was born on May 10, 2010, to Chatelle and Nishaun T., who were not married but lived together at the time. Chatelle left him, claiming he was abusive. During the summer of 2015, Chatelle and Nishaun agreed that she would have primary custody of S.M.T. but that he would have primary care of S.M.T., according to the record.
Chatelle claimed she saw her daughter regularly until early 2016 when Linda cut off contact with her and wouldn’t allow her to see the child. Linda told Chatelle that she was now the girl’s guardian. The girl’s father, who was allegedly taking drugs and tried to commit suicide in front of her, signed a form giving Linda temporary guardianship of his daughter, according to court documents.
After Chatelle saw this document, she went to the sheriff, who told her she needed a court order to regain custody of her child. Chatelle filed a motion to get her daughter back, but the circuit ended up granting custody to Linda in July 2016.
After guardianship was granted to Linda, Chatelle filed a motion to reconsider in circuit court.
On Sept. 23, 2016, the court denied her motion, finding that the presumption as to her "readiness" was rebutted and that the "evidence justified temporary guardianship until [a] full hearing on the merits could be conducted." Chatelle appealed this ruling.
“After a careful review of the record, we conclude that the evidence does not support the trial court's finding that Linda overcame the statutory presumption that Chatelle was willing and able to make and carry out day-to-day child-care decisions concerning S.M.T.,” states the decision.
The court also denied Chatelle’s request to have her attorney fees paid from public funds. The court rejected her argument that her attorneys, who represented her pro bono in the trial court and on appeal, should be paid from public funds because she never requested counsel.