Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Custody - Appeal - Standard of review

Hanson v. Hanson - Pa. Superior Court June 21, 2005


The issue in a custody case is not (as stated by appellant) whether the lower court reached the "right decision" or whether the appellee sustained his/her burden of proving that it was in the children's best interest for appellee to have custody.

Rather, the issue is whether, based on the evidence presented and giving due deference to the trial court's weight and drecibility determinations, the trial court erred or abused its discretion in determining what is in the children's best interests.

The court emphasized its "limited and deferent [sic?] scope and standard of review."

The appellate court recognized that the lower court faced a difficult decision. "In these circumstances, the court's custody decision is an 'imperfect and often painful' solution to the parties….'There is no black letter formula that easily resolve [custody] disputes…." The appellate court said that it "very likely would have found ample evidence to sustain the court's decision if it ruled in favor of [appellant].

However, the court stated that it would not re-weigh the evidence and found "ample evidence to support" the lower court's findings and decision.

Don Marritz, MidPenn Legal Services