Child Custody, Visitation & Relocation

Father Awarded Primary Physical Custody Of Minor Daughter Because Of Child’s Positive Lifestyle With Her Father

In the child custody case of Blackshear v. Blackshear, PICS Case No, 15-0714 (C.P. Lawrence, March 17, 2015) the Honorable John W. Hodge awarded primary physical custody of minor child to father because the parties’ child was enjoying a positive lifestyle with her father and siblings and doing well in school. The court modified the consent custody order and awarded primary physical custody to father.

Defendant filed a petition for special relief and modification of custody. Plaintiff mother and defendant father were the natural parents of the subject minor child, Aliya. Both mother and father desired primary physical custody of Aliya.

Mother and father were married on Oct. 18, 1996 and separated of Aug. 1, 2013. Mother and father have four children together. The parties’ competing requests for primary physical custody only applied to the youngest child, Aliya.

Following the parties’ separation, mother moved to Austintown, Ohio with Aliya while father remained in New Castle, Pennsylvania. Mother and father entered into a custody agreement, whereby mother would enjoy primary physical custody of Aliya and father would enjoy partial custody every other weekend. Father retained primary custody of the two other minor children. The parties’ agreement permitted all of the minor children to be together with the custodial parent every weekend. This agreement was filed of record on October 11, 2013.

In February of 2014, mother informed father that Aliya wished to return to New Castle, Pennsylvania and live primarily with father. Father agreed to this arrangement and enrolled Aliya into the New Castle Area School District for the remainder of the academic year. From February 2014 through November 2014, father retained primary custody of Aliya. Mother exercised partial custody every other weekend. On Nov. 23, 2014, following the Thanksgiving holiday, mother refused to return the minor child to father’s custody.

Father filed a petition for special relief and modification of custody order requesting that the court modify the consent custody order to reflect the current agreement entered into by the parties whereby father maintained primary custody of Aliya.

Following a custody conference, a temporary custody order was entered granting father primary custody and providing mother with partial custody every other weekend. Additionally, a custody trial was scheduled.

Mother and father did not present any evidence to the court which questioned the mental and physical condition of the opposing party. After considering the testimony presented by the parties, in addition to completing the requisite statutory analysis, the court determined that the best interests of the minor child would be served by father maintaining primary custody. The court found that it was crucial for Aliya to continue to attend school in the New Castle Area School District because she was flourishing academically there. Additionally, the court found that Aliya established an appropriate social structure within her community while residing with father.

The court declined to disrupt the child’s positive lifestyle. The court entered a custody order awarding father primary custody, subject to the partial custody rights of mother.

Reference: Digest of Recent Opinions, Pennsylvania Law Weekly, 38 PLW 449 (Tuesday, May 12, 2015.

Filed Under: Child Custody; Physical Custody

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