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S.R.R. v. D.W.R.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

June 28, 2013

S.R.R., Appellee
D.W.R., Appellant


Appeal from the Order Entered January 4, 2013 In the Court of Common Pleas of Jefferson County Civil Division at No(s): 1251-2009 C.D.




D.W.R. ("Father") appeals from the order entered on January 4, 2013, which awarded S.R.R. ("Mother") primary physical custody of their three children, A.R., J.R., and E.R., and granted Father periods of partial physical custody. We affirm.

Mother and Father are married, and all three children were born of their relationship. Mother initiated the underlying litigation by filing a custody complaint on November 13, 2009. The parties' initial consent decree awarded Mother and Father shared physical custody. Following a mediation conference to address recurring disputes and increasing animosity, the trial court presided over a custody trial on October 26, 2010, and entered an order on December 17, 2010, that awarded Father primary physical custody of all three children. Mother was granted periods of partial physical custody, including alternating periods of weekend custody. Mother and Father shared legal custody.

Two weeks later, Father filed a petition to modify his award of primary custody so that he could maximize his time with the children. A prehearing conference was scheduled for February 24, 2011; however, following several continuances, Mother's successful petition and cross-petition for contempt, Father's two unsuccessful petitions for special relief and contempt, and Father's fruitless motion for recusal, the trial court held an evidentiary hearing on November 4, 2011. Thereafter, on May 21, 2012, the trial court awarded Mother primary physical custody and granted Father alternating periods of weekend physical custody while the children are in school and biweekly custody during the summer.

During Father's ensuing appeal, this Court determined that the new child custody law, effective January 24, 2011, applied to this case. We vacated the custody order and remanded the matter for the trial court to comply with its statutory mandate under the new custody law to consider the best-interest factors listed in 23 Pa.C.S. § 5328. The trial court complied with our directive, and on January 4, 2013 it entered an opinion and order that awarded Mother primary physical custody of the three children under terms identical to its previous custody order, incorporated its findings of facts and conclusions of law from its previous opinion, and addressed each of the sixteen factors enumerated in § 5328(a).

This timely appeal followed.[1] Father presents a single generic issue for our review: "Whether the [trial] court erred in granting primary physical custody to Appellee." Father's brief at 4. Mother failed to present a countervailing argument on appeal. For the reasons that follow, no relief is due.

We recently reiterated our scope and standard of review of a custody determination as follows:

In reviewing a custody order, our scope is of the broadest type and our standard is abuse of discretion. We must accept findings of the trial court that are supported by competent evidence of record, as our role does not include making independent factual determinations. In addition, with regard to issues of credibility and weight of the evidence, we must defer to the presiding trial judge who viewed and assessed the witnesses first-hand. However, we are not bound by the trial court's deductions or inferences from its factual findings. Ultimately, the test is whether the trial court's conclusions are unreasonable as shown by the evidence of record. We may reject the conclusions of the trial court only if they involve an error of law, or are unreasonable in light of the sustainable findings of the trial court.
With any child custody case, the paramount concern is the best interests of the child. This standard requires a case-by-case assessment of all the factors that may legitimately affect the physical, intellectual, moral and spiritual well-being of the child.

M.J.M. v. M.L.G., 63 A.3d 331, 334 (Pa.Super. 2013) (quoting J.R.M. v. J.E.A., 33 A.3d 647, 650 (Pa.Super. 2011)).

Pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. ยง 5328(a), the determination of a child's best interest requires the examination of ...

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