Tuesday, December 20, 2005

custody - standard of review, expert opinion

King v. King - Pa. Superior Court, December 16, 2005


In a factually complicated case, the appellate court affirmed the trial court's grant of primary custody to father, over child's expressed strong preference for mother. There was no discussion at all about the child-preference issue.

standard of review -- The Court said that it was its scope of review was "very broad" but that it was "not this Court's function to determine whether the trial court reached the 'right' decision' rather we must consider whether, 'based on the evidence presented, given due deference to the trial court's weight and credibility determinations,' the trial court erred or abused is discretion in awarding custody to the prevailing party."

expert opinion - The appellate court upheld the trial's court's refusal to follow the recommendation of the custody evaluator, a psychologist, that custody go to mother, stating that the trial court had conducted two full hearings and was "in the unique position of having had the opportunity to observe all of the parties in this matter for a period of at least four years." The trial judge "detailed 96 findings of fact with an excellent analysis and interpretation of the nuances expressed by the witnesses which strongly support his conclusions. Our standard of review does not allow us to alter the court's conclusions provided they are supported by the record or unless they are manifestly unreasonable. The court's decision awarding custody to [father] is supported by the voluminous record before us."

Donald Marritz
MidPenn Legal Services