Friday, April 26, 2013

custody - appeal - discussion of statutory factors by trial court prior to appeal deadline

C.B. v. J.B. – Superior Court – Apriol 22, 2013

In this appeal, we are called upon squarely to determine the point in time at which a trial court must specify the reasons for its decision in a child custody case. We address this question under the “new” Child Custody Act (“the Act”), which our General Assembly enacted in November 2010, and which took effect in January 2011. In this case, C.B. appeals the custody order entered on October 24, 2011. That order awarded primary physical custody of two childrento their paternal uncle,from whom appellant Aunt is separated.

To decide this appeal, we must address the timing of the trial court’s application of the sixteen custody factors delineated in the Act. We hold today that the Act requires a trial court to address each of these factors prior to the deadline by which a litigant must file a notice of  appeal, and preferably at the time the custody order is issued or shortly thereafter. We apply this holding prospectively, as the trial court here was not bound to anticipate this construction of the Act.