Child Custody, Visitation & Relocation


While the parties’ minor child recently expressed a preference for living with father, the court refused to alter the current custody arrangement, which had satisfactorily served the best interests of a child, given the child’s apparent attempt to please father. The trial court issued a custody order.

The parties were married in 1994 and divorced in 2013. During the marriage, the parties had two children, a son named M.T.L. and a daughter named M.L. Mother now lives with her husband and his two minor sons. Father now lives with his wife, referred to herein as stepmother. Both parties reside in the school district where M.T.L. is enrolled in school. After the divorce, the parties shared physical custody of M.T.L. Daughter M.L., now an adult, lived with father and were estranged from mother from the spring of 2014 through November 2017. M.L. then moved in with mother and became estranged from father. M.L. now lives with her boyfriend. Here, father petitioned to modify the existing custody order, requesting primary custody of M.T.L. According to father, the change in primary custody was in the child’s best interest because M.T.L. expressed a preference to live with father. Father and son shared a close bond and a love of sports, particularly ice hockey, and history. They took outings together to pursue these interests. M.T.L. expressed some concerns in school, which resulted in his obtaining counseling. Father favored counseling but believed that mother was not supportive of the boy’s counseling. Mother recognized that M.T.L. had recently expressed a preference to live with father but believed this was due to pressure from father’s household and that M.T.L. was afraid to displease father. The guardian ad litem stated that while there were benefits to both households, father’s motive appeared to be support oriented. The guardian also opined that stepmother attempted to undermine the child’s relationship with his mother. However, the guardian was also concerned with mother’s household, stating that mother did not pay enough attention to the child. In reaching a decision, the court expressed concern over daughter’s period of separation from her parents but noted that this appeared to be the result of her immature overreactions. In these instances of separation, the estranged parents made little or no effort to reconcile with M.L. The court did not believe that father’s motive for filing the petition was support related. Rather, father appeared to be motivated by his belief that M.L. wished to reside with him. However, the court was concerned with an award of primary physical custody to father, as the child needed extensive time with both parents. The biggest negative regarding father’s household was stepmother’s attitude toward mother and her interference with parenting. If father was granted primary custody, stepmother and to some extent father would take over control of M.L.’s upbringing and minimize mother’s involvement, the court opined. Meanwhile, the court agreed with the guardian that M.L. might have felt pressure to please father in expressing a preference and that concerns regarding mother’s lack of attention could be easily remedied.

Courts are reluctant to disturb existing custody arrangements which have satisfactorily served the best interests of a child, the court reasoned in its decision directing that the 50/50 custody arrangement continue.


Digests of Recent Opinions, Pennsylvania Law Weekly, 42 PLW 590, Tuesday, June 18, 2019. Long v. Long, PICS Case No. 19-0668 (C.P. Berks May 21, 2019)

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