Child Custody, Visitation & Relocation

Best Interest Factors: Father Awarded Primary Physical Custody of Minor Children

In the Child Custody Case of Moyer vs. Moyer, PICS Case No. 13-3043 (C.P Berks, September 30, 2013), the Honorable Jeffrey Schmehl awarded primary physical custody of two minor children, ages 15 and 12 to father where his home environment offered greater stability and continuity in the children’s routines, father’s family was available to assist and mother’s new romantic relationship with father’s brother resulted in her absence from the home and alienation from extended family. Defendant mother had primary physical custody of two minor children, ages 15 and 12, since mother and father separated several years earlier.

Father was employed and shared a home with his fiancée and her children. Father was actively involved in the children’s education and extra-curricular activities. Father sought primary custody of the children because he believed mother drank alcohol to excess, neglected their younger child’s special needs, which resulted in poor grades in school, and left the children alone unsupervised in the home.

Mother’s testimony established that she handled the children’s daily routines and medical needs. Mother worked with the school to establish the younger child’s IEP. Mother had only recently left the children alone for short amounts of time during which the older child, an experienced babysitter, was left in charge.

Mother averred that father was both an alcoholic and workaholic whose bid to obtain primary custody of the children was motivated by his desire to stop child support payments.

Mother’s new boyfriend, father’s brother, admitted to being an alcoholic while mother and father downplayed their alcohol use. Mother was unemployed and serving house arrest for a DUI offense.

The factor of stability and continuity in the children’s education, family life and community life required more in-depth analysis. Based in large part on mother’s recent change in relationship status which affected the time she spent with the children, father was found more likely to provide continuity in the children’s daily lives and a more stable and consistent home environment.

Additionally, father had extended family available to provide for the children’s care when needed. Mother’s only immediate family relation was an estranged brother.

The court also found the children’s sibling relationships’ were generally good but there was less conflict between them when they were with their father. The court interviewed the children and gave appropriate weight to their preferences.

Based on all the relevant factors, the court concluded that it was in the children’s best interests to award primary physical custody to father. The court cited all parties for alcohol use and included in its order a directive that no alcohol be consumed by father or mother or anyone in their households when the children were present.

Reference: Digest of Recent Opinions, Pennsylvania Law Weekly (November 12, 2013)

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