Child Custody, Visitation & Relocation

Court Denies Father’s Child Custody Contempt Petition After Child’s Relocation To Another State Because Child’s Best Interests Were Served By Not Changing The Current Child Custody Arrangement

In the child custody contempt litigation case of Trethaway vs. Trethaway, PICS Case No. 14-1148 (C.P. Monroe County, May 23, 2014), plaintiff father bought a petition for custody contempt and modification and defendant mother brought a petition for modification regarding their minor child. The Honorable Steve Higgins denied both petitions.

In his contempt petition, father complained mother violated legal custody by enrolling daughter in school in New Jersey without his agreement; mother moved to New Jersey without an order approving relocation; mother refused to give father the physical address of her residence; and mother did not complete her co-parenting program. Father sought a modification to allow him to enjoy equal custody.

Father testified daughter was born in September 2008 in Newtown, N.J.  Mother and father resided together in Monroe County, Pa. until Jan. 9, 2010, when mother and daughter left the marital residence. Several days later, father filed an emergency custody petition. After a custody conciliation conference was held, father and mother shared legal custody with mother having primary physical custody subject to father’s periods of partial physical custody.

Father filed a contempt petition on Oct. 16, 2013. Father claimed that mother had always been over-protective and she wanted to control everything. After the separation, father and mother agreed to a custody schedule where father had custody from Wednesday to Saturday. Father raised concerns that daughter was registered in Roe’s Country Daycare in Ogdensburg, N.J. without his knowledge. In fall of 2013, mother enrolled daughter in the Ogdensburg School District. Father claimed that mother enrolled daughter despite his request that she start school in 2014, at the Notre Dame School in East Stroudsburg, Pa.

In response to father’s allegations, mother claimed that she moved to New Jersey after the separation due to domestic violence. Mother contended that her move was prior to the custody order. She stated that father raised the issue of relocation in his petition filed in January 2010, and that the issue was resolved. Mother also argued that father was aware that she enrolled daughter in school in New Jersey and that she provided father with her physical address.

Mother described her marriage and two occasions of domestic violence. After leaving the marital residence, mother stayed in New Jersey at her friend’s house. Mother registered daughter for pre-kindergarten. Mother stated that she discussed enrolling daughter in kindergarten in New Jersey in the same district where the pre-kindergarten was located.

Mother was unaware that father objected to daughter attending school in New Jersey. Although mother was not opposed to father dropping daughter off at school after his periods of custody, she was concerned that father failed to take daughter to school on two Fridays. Mother also stated that she had observed peculiar behavior by daughter after she returned from father’s custody. Father and mother had discussed counseling and to date daughter had attended approximately six sessions with a counselor. Mother wanted to remain as daughter’s primary physical custodian.

The court concluded that daughter was in a stable environment in mother’s home and she was well adapted to the custody arrangement. The court found that daughter’s interests were best served by not significantly changing the current custody order. Daughter has lived in New Jersey since 2010 and she had flourished and was best suited to remain primarily with mother, thus the court ruled the parties would continue to share legal custody.

Father’s custody contempt and modification petition was denied. Mother’s petition for modification was denied.

Reference: Digest of Recent Opinions, Pennsylvania Law Weekly, 37 PLW 708 (July 29, 2014)

Filed Under: Child Custody, Family Law Litigation: Modification of Child Custody Orders

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