Friday, March 31, 2006

Case Law Development: Alternating Custody Between Two States Every Two Weeks Not an Abuse of Discretion

Mother, while a junior in high school, became pregnant from a 21-year-old male.  She signed a parenting agreement providing for joint custody while she was still a minor.  When she later wanted to move to Wyoming, she sought to void the agreement on the ground of her minority when signing it.  The court agreed and gave joint custody to Mother and Father, alternating every two weeks, but when the child entered kindergarten Father was to have primary physical custody.  The Idaho Supreme Court upheld this custody decision, noting that:

"Doubtless the splitting of custody in the fashion done by the trial court creates issues. Uprooting a child every two weeks to travel and live in alternating locations with alternating people raises serious concerns as to the welfare of the child."  However, as there was expert testimony from a mental health professional supporting the decision, the court fount that the trial court did not abuse its discretion."

Nor did the court agree with Mother that the court could not prospectively change custody when the child entered kindergarten.  The court noted that a child entering school is a change in circumstances and commented: "Against the background of the parents sharing custody equally it is appealing to say that the trial court should have ordered a further hearing when time elapsed and school became imminent, necessitating that one parent's time with the child be expanded and the other's diminished. However, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in doing otherwise."

State v. Hart, 2006 Ida. LEXIS 41 (March 22, 2006)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/family_law/2006/03/case_law_develo_43.html

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