Appeal, No. 170, Oct. T., 1963, from order of County Court of Philadelphia, Jan. T., 1963, No. 11474, in case of Commonwealth ex rel. Donald Thomas v. Juanita Gillard. Order affirmed.
Samuel Dashiell, for appellant.
Albert Konefsky, for appellee.
Before Rhodes, P.j., Ervin, Wright, Woodside, Watkins, Montgomery, and Flood, JJ.
[ 203 Pa. Super. Page 97]
This is an appeal in a habeas corpus action from an order of the County Court of Philadelphia County awarding custody of the minor child, Renee Thomas, to Juanita Gillard, the mother of the child, the respondent-appellee.
The mother of the child, Juanita Gillard, was married to a James Brooks. While her divorce from Brooks was pending she married the petitioner, Donald Thomas, in July, 1956. The Brooks divorce was not granted until 1957. The child in question, Renee Thomas, was born of this union on September 14, 1958. Later Juanita and Donald were separated. Thomas obtained a Mexican divorce in May, 1961 and in July, 1961, he married Joyce Thomas, his present wife, who bore him another child. Thereafter he secured an annulment of his marriage to Juanita. Juanita married Prince Gillard, her present husband, on November 5, 1962.
The child was in the custody of her mother from the time of her birth on September 14, 1958, until April 15, 1961, when Thomas, under the pretext of taking the child on a visit in Philadelphia, carried the child away with him to the State of California without the consent of or notice to Juanita. After frantic efforts to locate the child she finally located Thomas in California and went to his home where, with her present husband Prince Gillard they forcibly seized the child but were stopped by the California police as they were boarding a plane for Philadelphia.
The child was then temporarily placed in an institution. On February 19, 1962, the court of Los Angeles County, California, awarded Juanita temporary custody of the child and entered an order of support for the child against Thomas. Later, on November 18, 1962, the court awarded full custody of the child 18 Thomas. On December 23, 1962, Juanita took the
[ 203 Pa. Super. Page 98]
child out of California and disregarding the order of the California court has since been residing in Philadelphia with her child.
We have repeatedly said that in determining custody problems our policy is to give great weight to the opinion of the hearing judge who has had the opportunity of seeing the parties and the children and listening to the testimony and only where we are constrained to decide that there has been a gross ...