Appeal from the Order in the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County, Civil Division, No. 84-C-804
James E. Richardson, Whitehall, for appellant.
William L. Koslosky, Easton, for appellee.
Tamilia, Kelly and Hester, JJ.
[ 377 Pa. Super. Page 332]
Appellant father appeals a September 2, 1987 Order which granted primary physical custody of the parties' two minor children to appellee mother, and directed that father be given liberal visitation rights. The facts and procedural history surrounding the appeal follow.
The parties are the parents of Lawrence R.S. Haller, born June 1, 1980, and Laura E.R. Haller, born April 19, 1982. The parties were divorced in February of 1985; father remarried in October of 1986, and mother has not yet remarried. Father is a career United States Army officer. Mother is a full-time baby-sitter for her brother's six children. The family resided in Georgia until June of 1984 when father was assigned to serve as an Army R.O.T.C. officer on the campus of Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. At that time father moved to Pennsylvania, taking the children with him, while mother was unaware of the move because she was attending Army Reserve Training. On July 5, 1984, father filed a complaint seeking custody of the two children.*fn1 An Order was entered that same day directing mother to appear at a July 30, 1984 hearing. Subsequently, on August 2, 1984, the court ordered home studies
[ 377 Pa. Super. Page 333]
On October 9, 1985, the court entered an Order which awarded immediate temporary physical custody to the mother in accordance with an agreement by the parties. Soon afterwards, father sought visitation, and on December 13, 1985, the court issued a rule to show cause why father's petition for visitation should not be granted; the petition was dismissed, however, on December 19, 1985, for father's failure to appear. The parties instead entered a stipulation whereby father's visitation rights over the Christmas 1985 holiday were set out. The court approved the stipulation by an Order dated December 24, 1985 and filed January 7, 1986. After the Christmas 1985 visit, father again filed a petition for visitation and a rule to show cause was filed by the court on February 5, 1986. On May 20, 1986, the parties entered a stipulation regarding visitation which was adopted as an Order of court.
On April 15, 1987, father filed a petition for confirmation of custody, which is the subject of this appeal. In the petition father alleged that joint custody for two years had been awarded on October 8, 1985 in open court. Father averred that his remarriage and family stability and the instability of mother's family living conditions, both present and future, constituted a substantial change of circumstances which warranted a change in the Order, and that the children's best interest and permanent welfare would be served by granting the requested relief. In the petition he pointed to mother's move from Georgia to Booneville, New York. He also sought an expeditious resolution of the matter since he had orders from the U.S. Army to relocate to Germany for five years commencing November 1987.*fn3 A home evaluation of father's Pennsylvania home was ordered on May 19, 1987 and filed July 8, 1987. A home study of the mother's Booneville, New York, home was ordered June 19, 1987. The court entered an Order on May 22, 1987
[ 377 Pa. Super. Page 334]
granting mother physical custody of the children for much ...