Child custody battles require weighing sixteen factors against one another in a complex analysis that is meant to determine the best interests of the children. Relocation cases add extra factors into the mix by In child relocation cases in which the custodial parent wishes to relocate with the child against the objections of the noncustodial parent, the court may decide that the relocating parent wants to relocate primarily to frustrate the other parent’s custody time. The best interests of the children are always the main concern of the court, and the happiness or well-being of the relocating parent is only one of many factors in the child custody analysis in Pennsylvania.
Having both parent’s in their lives is in the best interests of children and so is stability. Pulling a child out of school and away from friends and family can be traumatic for some children and the benefits of such a decision have to outweigh the possible trauma. If these benefits do not outweigh the trauma, and the parents do not get along or the relocating parent is found to be hostile to the noncustodial parent, the court may decide the case based upon the first very first factor found at 23 Pa C.S. sec. 5328(a)(1) in the Pennsylvania statutory code, which orders the Pennsylvania courts to give “weighted consideration” to sixteen factors, the first of which favors the parent who “is more likely to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact between the child and another party.” A further consideration is found in the relocation section of the custody statute, found at 23 Pa C.S. sec. 5337. In 5337(h), entitled Relocation Factors, we find “(5) Whether there is an established pattern of conduct of either party to promote or thwart the relationship of the child and the other party.” In this case, the relocation with the children may well be denied.
In Baldwin v Baldwin, the court denied Mother’s application to relocate with the children for several reasons: (1) after loss of employment in Pennsylvania, she accepted lower-paying employment in North Carolina without ever looking in Pennsylvania; (2) all of the children’s relatives were in Pennsylvania; and (3) Mother had a history of non-cooperation with father and his custody time. For these reasons, the court began to suspect Mother’s motives for relocation. (710 A.2d 610 (Pa. Super. 1998)). You can see in this case how the court will listen to all of the evidence to try to make a judgment about the benefits to the children and instead make a decision about a parent’s motivations. In Baldwin, as in any case, there is no one behavior that will convince a judge. It was Mother’s history combined with a lack of convincing evidence (such as a failed job search in Pennsylvania) that she needed to uproot her children and move them to a new state.