Thursday, May 29, 2008

custody - relocation

Hogrelius v. Martin - Superior Court - May 29, 2008

The court affirmed a decision granting mother permission to move with child to Virginia, where they would live with mother's new husband.

A lot of the opinion dealt with economic factors, including the fact that the stepfather alone earned more than both parents combined.

The court also rejected father's claims that the proposed alternate arrangements for his partial custody were not adequate, because they involved a reduction in his custody time and a longer commute (5.5 hours each way). The court rejected this contention as well, stating:

In addressing this prong of the Gruber analysis, a court’s determination is not whether the alternative schedule would maintain the current level of the non-custodial parent’s interaction with the children, but rather whether the substitute arrangements “will foster adequately an ongoing relationship” between the non-custodial parent and the children....This Court addressed a similar contention in Goldfarb v. Goldfarb, 861 A.2d 340, 346 (Pa.Super. 2004), and concluded that the distance between the noncustodial parent and his relocated children is not the controlling concern. We stated, 'If it were, no necessity for a Gruber analysis would ever have arisen, as physical proximity would be a sine qua non of most if not all custody determinations.' Id. Thus, although an alternative custody schedule necessarily reduces the frequency of a parent’s interaction with a child because of the distance involved, relocation should not be denied for that reason alone....Gruber, 583 A.2d at 185-86. See also Ketterer v. Seifert, 902 A.2d 533, 539 (Pa.Super. 2006) (fact that move of considerable distance will increase cost and logistical problems of maintaining contact between non-custodial parent and child will not necessarily preclude relocation when other factors favor it).

The court found that the proposed custody schedule for the father -- alternating weekends, most holidays, and seven weeks during the summer, as well as alternate holidays, and during extended breaks from school - would increases father’s extended, overnight custody and would adequately foster a healthy relationship between father and child.