Child Custody, Visitation & Relocation


The court denied father’s motion to modify custody order to allow the child to change school districts, because the court found the child was performing satisfactorily in her current district and she had already had an individualized educational plan in place there.

The parties were the parents of a ten year old child, KB. They had a week on/week off shared custody schedule. Father temporarily located outside of Lycoming County, but he subsequently returned and his home was in the Montgomery area school district. Mother’s home was in the Williamsport area school district, which was where KB had been attending school since Kindergarten. Father sought to modify custody to allow KB to attend school in the Montgomery school district.

KB was diagnosed with profound hearing loss at a very young age. She had cochlear implants when she was four years old. KB had just completed third grade. She had an individualized educational plan, and the school provided her with a device to help her hear in the classroom. A mobile therapist visited KB in the homes of both parents. Regardless of a change in custody, KB’s mobile therapist was not expected to change.

At the time of the hearing, KB had just completed third grade, and Father wanted her to begin fourth grade in the Montgomery school district. He argued that switching school districts was in KB’s best interests because the Montgomery district ranked higher than the Williamsport area school district in assisting students with disabilities. Father claimed KB’s academic performance was slipping and that she struggled with math. He thought she would perform better academically in the Montgomery area school district. According to father, KB was bullied in her current school and did not have many friends. The school in his district was only a short walk from his home.

Mother testified that KB should be permitted to remain in the Williamsport area school district. KB had teachers of the deaf who were employed by her current school district, whereas the Montgomery district had no faculty that were trained to teach the deaf. Although another district would be required to bring in a qualified teacher on a contract basis, mother argued this would not be any more effective than what KB was already receiving. Also, KB had been working with the Williamsport school district audiologist for several years. Mother asserted changing school districts was not in KB’s best interests. Her school performance was satisfactory, and KB received counseling and had implemented techniques for dealing with the bullying issues.

The court agreed with mother that changing school districts was not in KB’s best interests. Neither party presented any testimony besides their own. Father presented some general statistics about the school districts, but he did not submit any of KB’s school records. The court found no reason to change what was in place. KB was already familiar with professionals who were assisting with her educational plan and hearing issues. KB apparently told the guardian ad litem that she wanted to switch school districts, but the court placed little weight on KB’s preference, given her age and the lack of other compelling reasons to support such a modification. Therefore, the court denied father’s motion to modify.

Reference: Digest of Recent Opinions, Pennsylvania Law Weekly, 41 PLW 839, Tuesday, September 4, 2018, SBB v. JEB-S, PICS Case No. 18-0997 (C.P. Lycoming July 17, 2018) McCoy, J.

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