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COMMONWEALTH EX REL. PAMELA STEINER v. ROBERT N. STEINER (07/12/78)

decided: July 12, 1978.

COMMONWEALTH EX REL. PAMELA STEINER, APPELLANT,
v.
ROBERT N. STEINER



No. 936 April Term, 1977, Appeal from the Order entered on the 8th day of June, 1977, by the Honorable Robert B. Filson, of the Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations Division, Clarion County, at No. 1, D.R., 1976.

COUNSEL

Alfred H. Lander, Clarion, with him Alex E. Echard, Greensburg, for appellant.

Ralph L. S. Montana, Clarion, for appellee.

Jacobs, President Judge, and Hoffman, Cercone, Price, Van der Voort, Spaeth and Hester, JJ. Jacobs, President Judge, dissents.

Author: Spaeth

[ 257 Pa. Super. Page 458]

This is a child custody case. In August 1976 the lower court approved an amicable settlement of the parties, awarded custody of their two minor children to the mother, with liberal visitation to the father, and ordered: "If children are removed from the jurisdiction of the Court of Common Pleas of Clarion County, the Defendant [father] shall be notified and given a chance to be heard by the Court

[ 257 Pa. Super. Page 459]

    if he so desires." N.T. 1. In April 1977 the mother notified the father that she wished to move with the children to Armstrong County. Following a hearing, the lower court entered an order that it "Hereby refuses the proposed move of the children to Armstrong County. In the event the petitioner [mother] wishes to move without the children, that is her right. However, if the petitioner does decide to move to Armstrong County, it is directed that the custody of the children be removed from the said petitioner Pamela Steiner." The mother has appealed this order.

The parties have lived in East Brady, Clarion County, for the past ten years. They have two children, Matthew Anthony, born in March 1967, and Shelley Marie, born in January 1969. When the parties separated four years ago, the mother and the children remained in the house where the family had been living, while the father moved in with his parents, less than a block away. The house in Armstrong County to which the mother wishes to move is about four miles away. The lower court characterized this move as "an unnecessary move to another environment [that] will necessarily interfere with the welfare of the children." Lower Court Opinion at 3.

It is settled that in a custody dispute between parents the court's paramount concern is to determine what award will be in the best interest of the children. Commonwealth ex rel. Parikh v. Parikh, 449 Pa. 105, 107-8, 296 A.2d 625, 627 (1972); Cochran Appeal, 394 Pa. 162, 145 A.2d 857 (1958); Commonwealth ex rel. Graham v. Graham, 367 Pa. 553, 80 A.2d 829 (1951); Commonwealth ex rel. Grillo v. Shuster, 226 Pa. Super. 229, 312 A.2d 58 (1973). In order to make this determination the court must have before it a full record, so that it may consider all relevant evidence. Gunter v. Gunter, 240 Pa. Super. 382, 361 A.2d 307 (1976); Commonwealth ex rel. Grillo v. Shuster, supra.

The lower court found that the move would require both children to change schools. This finding is contrary to the record. The mother testified that the children would remain in the same school district, and that while Shelley would

[ 257 Pa. Super. Page 460]

    have to change schools for two years, Matthew would remain in ...


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