Child Custody, Visitation & Relocation

Relocation Not In Best Interests of the Minor Child

In the Family Law case of F.G. v. S.K., PICS Case No. 13-2665 (C.P. Northampton August 15, 2013), the Honorable Anthony S.Beltrami denied a mother’s petition to relocate with her minor child because the mother’s proposition that the type of employment she had obtained in Milwaukee was not available closer to the father’s residence.

The parties were the natural parents of minor child K.G., who was born in 2005.  The parties resided together in the Bronx, N.Y.  In September 2012, mother moved out of father’s residence.  Mother then moved to and resided in Bethlehem, PA.

Mother had a long-term friend who lived in Milwaukee, Wis.  With assistance from her friend, mother went to Milwaukee and obtained full-time employment as an assistant to a building manager.  In February 2013, mother moved to Milwaukee with K.G.

Prior to the move, mother did not inform father that she was moving to Milwaukee.  On Feb. 27, 2013, father filed a compliant for custody.  In response, mother filed a complaint for custody and petition for relocation.

The trial court noted that in any child custody case, the paramount concern is the best interests of the child.  “This standard requires a case-by-case assessment of all the factors that may legitimately affect the physical, intellectual, moral and spiritual well-being of the child”.

In ordering any form of custody, the court must determine the best interest of the child by considering all relevant factors and giving weighted consideration to those factors which affect the safety of the child.  Here, the court expressed serious concerns about the reasons behind mother’s proposed relocation.

Mother planned to uproot K.G. from the location in which she had lived most of her life and where father and much of the child’s extended family resided, primarily because mother  found a job in Milwaukee as a landlord’s administrative assistant.

The court did not consider the proposed relocation to be well-conceived or necessary for the well-being of child and/or mother.   Moreover, mother failed to meet her burden of proving that the proposed relocation would serve the best interests of the child, the court concluded.

K.G. excelled academically in Bethlehem and made friends there.  Further, father and much of the child’s extended family resided locally or in the New York City area.  The court was skeptical about the thoroughness of mother’s search for employment opportunities in the local area.

“The Court finds dubious the proposition that the type of employment mother obtained in Milwaukee was not available either in the Lehigh Valley, or in large nearby cities such as New York or Philadelphia.”

Moreover, the court elected to consider mother’s failure to provide reasonable notice of the proposed relocation as a factor in making its determination regarding the relocation.  As such, the court decided to deny mother’s petition for relocation.

Reference: Digest of Recent Opinions, Pennsylvania Law Weekly (October 8, 2013)

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