Child Custody, Visitation & Relocation


While mother proposed moving to a different state, the distance was only about two hours by car and the relocation would enhance the quality of life for both mother and children by eliminating a significant round-trip commute from Monroe County to Staten Island, New York each weekend for mother’s job and the children’s school. The court granted mother’s relocation request.

The parties are the natural parents of two minor children. Mother filed a complaint in custody and notice of proposed relocation in April 2020. She proposed moving to Staten Island, New York, a considerable distance from father’s residence in Monroe County. After a custody conciliation conference, the parties were subject to an order dated June 5, 2020, giving them shared legal custody, with mother having primary physical custody subject to father’s periods of partial physical custody. Here, the court addressed the factors set forth in 23 Pa C.S. 5328(a), relevant to a custody determination, and those in 23 Pa C.S. 5337(h), relevant to a proposed relocation. In analyzing the custody factors in 5328(a), such factors overall favored mother having primary custody, the court concluded. For example, the evidence demonstrated that mother had been the primary caregiver for the children since birth. Thus, she was more likely to attend to the daily physical, emotional, developmental and educational needs to the children. Moreover, the children’s preference favored mother.  Both children, who were mature enough to present credible testimony, had a strong bond with mother due to her performance of a majority of the parental duties, the court noted. Both minors also testified to strong friendships with their classmates in school on Staten Island, and the older child testified that he felt closer to mother and was concerned about losing friendships if he had to live with father. The court then applied the relocation factors to the evidence at bar. Both children testified that they had close school friends in Staten Island, and that they wanted to participate in extracurricular activities there. The children had always gone to school in Staten Island, where they were raised for the first part of their lives and where their doctor and dentist were located. While mother proposed to move to a different state, the distance was only about two hours by driving. Additionally, both parents worked in Staten Island, allowing for easy custody exchanges during the school year.

Accordingly, the court found that it was feasible to preserve the children’s relationship with father, i.e., the non-relocating party, through a standard custody arrangement. Moreover, mother’s quality of life would be greatly enhanced by the relocation, which would eliminate her nearly four hour round-trip commute from Monroe County to Staten Island each work day. The children were burdened with this same daily commute from their Pennsylvania residence to State Island for school and back during the school week. Meanwhile, father opposed relocation primarily because he wished to see the children more often. Given the children’s need to do homework, desire to participate in extracurricular activities and spend time with school friends, the court found the emotional benefits and the quality of life for the children would be substantially benefited by the relocation and granted mother’s motion.

RE: Digest of Recent Opinions, Pennsylvania Law Weekly, 43 PLW 1027, Wednesday, November 10, 2020, Mayman v. Johnson, PICS Case No. 20-1121 (C.P. Monroe, September 23, 2020)

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