Child Custody, Visitation & Relocation

Shared Physical Child Custody Was In The Child’s Best Interest

In this custody modification proceeding, the court concluded shared physical custody was in the child’s best interest.

The parties were the parents of a nine year old child, Kylie. Fathered petitioned for a modification of custody in which he sought primary physical custody of Kylie. Prior to the modification proceeding, the parties had been sharing time with their daughter on an equal basis.

Father claimed that mother provided an unstable environment for Kylie, and that mother and child had an acrimonious relationship. Mother denied this, and she also sought primary physical custody of the parties’ child.

The court analyzed the custody factors set forth in 23 Pa.C.S.A. §5328(a). The first factor involved consideration of which party was more likely to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact between the child and the other parent. The court found that this factor favored neither party, because both had been generally cooperative with allowing contact between Kylie and the other parent. On the stability factor, father had a slight advantage because mother had moved several times with the child, whereas father had lived at the same address for four years. Both parties had extended family members who had close relationships with Kylie. Although there was some evidence of conflict between Kylie and her mother, these issues had improved prior to the hearing.

In an interview, Kylie stated to the court she felt safe in the homes of both of her parents, and she was happy and comfortable with the current custody situation. A custody evaluator testified that custody should remain equally shared, although the evaluator suggested that mother and father engage in family therapy to address any disagreements.

The court found that both parents provided good care for their daughter. The record contained no evidence of domestic violence or substance abuse. The parties had been able to cooperate in making arrangements for their daughter in the past, and neither party presented any evidence to suggest this had changed. The court found both parents were capable of making practical decisions for Kylie.

Most of the custody factors in this case were neutral, because mother and father were both loving and nurturing toward their daughter. The court concluded it was in Kylie’s best interests for the parties to continue to share physical custody equally. The court’s order required the parties to make decisions for Kylie after joint discussion. The custody order called for the parents to have alternating weeks with Kylie, along with an alternating holiday schedule.

Reference: Digest of Recent Opinions, Pennsylvania Law Weekly, 41 PLW 440 (May 8, 2018) Ealey v. Sharp, PICS Case No. 18-0493 (C.P. Monroe April 12, 2018)

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