Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznar
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Primary Custody of Child Not Required During School Year

From The Legal Intelligencer:

In September, I wrote an article regarding the case of W.C.F. v. M.G., 115 A.3d 323 (Pa. Super. 2015), pertaining to the reversal of the trial court's child custody order when the trial court's decision was inconsistent with the analysis of the child custody factors enumerated under the child custody statute. In the case of R.S. v. T.T., 113 A.3d 1254 (Pa. Super. 2015), a trial court's decision was reversed because the facts of the case did not support the analysis of the child custody factors contained in the child custody statute. More importantly, the case dealt with an issue faced by many in child custody cases. In the R.S. case, the trial court determined that the child's entrance into full-day schooling requires that one parent must have primary custody so that the child may establish a routine and consistency during the school week. Often in child custody cases, a parent will argue that it is important for the child to have a home base or primary residence during the school year. That was the argument taken by the mother in the R.S. case. Ultimately, the state Superior Court reversed the trial court and found that the evidence did not support such a ruling.

The relevant facts of the R.S. case are as follows: Prior to the hearing that resulted in the appeal at issue, the parties had an equally shared custody schedule where the father had physical custody of their child on what is commonly referred to as a 2-2-5-5 schedule, where he had custody of the child every Monday morning until Wednesday night and every other weekend from Friday to Monday morning. In the anticipation of the child beginning full-time school, the mother filed a petition to modify custody requesting primary physical custody. The father, in turn, filed a petition to modify custody requesting primary custody as well. After a hearing, the trial court entered an order granting the mother primary physical custody with the father having custody of the child each Wednesday from 4 to 7 p.m. and on alternating weekends from Friday after school until Sunday at 8 p.m. During the summer, the court awarded equally shared custody on a week-on/week-off basis, according to the opinion.

The father filed an appeal primarily based on the issue of whether the trial court's order was unreasonable because its conclusions were not supported by evidence and the order failed to address the fact that the child "will now be deprived of father's care for extended periods during the school week, which is particularly problematic in light of the court's simultaneous conclusion the mother will not further the child's relationship with father."

Read more here.

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