Child Custody, Visitation & Relocation

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

In the child custody trial of Goode v. Orozco, P.I.C.S. Case No. 13-2782, CCP, Monroe County, PA the Honorable David J. Williamson granted father primary physical custody where the factors for safety and continuity of routine favored father, who was retired from employment and provided a more beneficial home environment for children.

Plaintiff father and defendant mother shared legal custody of their two children, ages six and three. Pursuant to the recommendation of a custody conciliator, father had primary physical custody. Both parties sought primary physical custody in a final custody determination.

Father, 56, was a retired postal worker with an adult daughter. Father and children lived in father’s four-bedroom home in East Stroudsburg, Pa. Father also invested in rental properties located in Newark, NJ.

Mother, 10 years younger than father, worked as a home health care aide in Newark, NJ, where she also lived. Mother’s 12-year-old son from a prior relationship lived with her. Mother’s parents and other relatives lived nearby.

Father and mother lived together for a while after the birth of their children but never married.

The court considered the applicable custody factors. Father was favored as more likely to encourage and allow frequent and continuing contact between the children and mother based on father’s credible testimony that mother had on more than one occasion taken the older child from school on her non-custody days. Father abided by the custody order.

Although both parents adequately performed their parental duties, father was favored because of his retirement status and mother’s varying shift schedules at work.

Due to the children’s young ages, the court specifically cited the need for continuity and minimal disruption in their routines. The children resided with father for two years. The court noted the neighborhood’s stability and safety and the nearby location of the elementary school as important considerations.

Mother’s neighborhood had more incidents of crime and mother was assaulted while in the company of her children, which the court noted as particularly disturbing and cautionary. Mother conceded that father’s residence was safer for the children.

There was no evidence that either parent engaged in behavior designed to turn the children against the other parent. Both parties also impressed the court with their ability to maintain a loving and nurturing relationship with the children and to provide appropriate child care as needed in their absence.

However, father was favored as the parent more likely to attend to the children’s daily physical, emotional, developmental, educational and special needs because he was retired and had more free time.

The court discounted father’s failure to meet the elder child at the bus stop twice after school as isolated incidences and afforded them no weight.

Based on all the relevant factors, it was in the children’s best interests for father to have primary physical custody. Mother was awarded partial physical custody.

Reference: Pennsylvania Law Weekly; Digest of Recent Opinion (October 22, 2013)

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