Child Custody, Visitation & Relocation


In the family law, child custody case of A.W. v. C.W., PICS Case No. 15-0887, (C.P. Lycoming, May 15, 2015), the Honorable Joy Reynolds McCoy ruled that considering factors relevant to the children’s best interest, including the need for stability and continuity, the court determined that the children should continue to attend school in the district in which defendant-father resided. Plaintiff’s petition for special relief to change their school district denied.

AW, mother, and CW, father, shared legal and physical custody of their two minor children, BW and AW. CW resided in the former marital residence in Williamsport. Mother resided in Loyalsock.

BW, in the first grade, attended school in the Williamsport Area School District. The parties’ daughter was eligible to attend kindergarten during the 2015-2016 academic year. Mother filed a petition for special relief, seeking to have both children attend school in the Loyalsock Township School District.

She contended that the LTSD was in the children’s best interests because WASD only sent mailings to one home address, in this case the father’s, which made her feel that the district did not recognize her as a parent and because it would not be necessary for the children to attend before-school care due to LTSD’s start time. Both she and father reported that BW had had issues in settling into the school day when coming from the before-school program. Also, not having the children in the before-school program would save the parties $30.00 per week. Mother confirmed she would be available to assist father with morning childcare in the event of delayed openings.

Father opposed the change in schools. He argued, and the principal confirmed, that there was only one mailing per year, an information packet sent during the summer. Otherwise, WASD used folders sent home with the children for most communication. Also, mother was a regular participant in WASD activities. He offered to pay $15 towards the weekly before-school costs if the children remained in WASD and expressed concern regarding how he would provide care in the event of a school delay if the children were moved. He also said BW’s behavioral issues had been resolved, which the teacher confirmed, and argued that AW would be more comfortable in the school she had visited almost daily with her brother.

The court noted that the fundamental issue in all child custody cases was the best interest of the children. It concluded that the children’s best interest would be better served if they attended WASD.

The court noted that mother had not presented any evidence on whether LTSD also sent mailings to only one address. Further, since WASD sent most information home with the children and the parties shared custody, mother had an equal opportunity to be the parent receiving the information. Moreover, the parent receiving the information was obligated to share it with the other parent. If either failed to do so, the remedy was a contempt action, not an action to change schools. The court found that mother clearly had had sufficient opportunity to be involved in BW’s education while he was in WASD.

Further, the court found that mother’s argument regarding BW’s behavior was not compelling since neither parent presented evidence that his conduct improved if he started the school day directly from home and it appeared that his behavioral issues had been remedied.

The court also found that the children’s best interest outweighed the cited financial benefit of a change in district and that their need for stability and continuity would be best met by remaining in WASD.

The court concluded that the parents had the children’s best interest in mind when they chose WASD and it saw no reason for a change.

Reference: Digest of Recent Opinions, Pennsylvania Law Weekly 38PLW544 (June 9, 2015)

Filed Under: Child Custody; Children’s Best Interest, Family Law

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