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[U] L.P.H. v. L.R.H.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

March 6, 2014

L.P.H., Appellant
v.
L.R.H., Appellee

NON-PRECEDENTIAL DECISION

Appeal from the Order July 9, 2013 In the Court of Common Pleas of McKean County Civil Division at No(s): 580 C.D. 2007

BEFORE: FORD ELLIOTT, P.J.E., BOWES, and WECHT, JJ.

MEMORANDUM

BOWES, J.

L.P.H. ("Mother") appeals from the July 9, 2013 order denying her request to relocate to West Blocton, Alabama with the parties' two minor daughters. We affirm.

Mother and Father married on September 15, 2001 and daughters were born of the marriage during March 2003 and January 2005. The older daughter is approximately eleven years old and the younger child is nine.[1]On April 25, 2007, Mother filed a complaint for divorce, which requested, inter alia, primary physical custody and legal custody of the children. On August 17, 2007, Mother was awarded primary physical custody and Father was granted periods of partial custody. The parties shared legal custody. Father exercised regular custody on alternating weekends and enjoyed informal periods of custody during the week. Father, who is disabled as a result of brain cancer, lives approximately twelve miles from Mother in Gifford, Pennsylvania. His parents and large extended family also reside in McKean County.

Prior to initiating the underlying relocation proceedings, Mother resided with the children and her paramour of approximately three years, K.S., in a three-bedroom rental home in Bradford, Pennsylvania. The eleven-year-old child is currently a fifth grader at School Street Elementary School in Bradford.[2] Her younger sister attends third grade at George G. Blaisdell Elementary School. Both children are proficient students. K.S. contributed to the household in Bradford and recently obtained a position as a maintenance mechanic in Alabama. Mother, who is unemployed, received a job offer in Alabama as an assistant manager at her sister's restaurant. The children have three twenty-something half-siblings, two sisters and a brother, who do not live in the home, from Mother's prior relationships. One half-sister resides in Texas and the other, who lives in Pennsylvania, intends to move to Alabama, and upon satisfying the residency requirements, enroll in a masters program at the University of Alabama. The children have had only limited contact with their half-brother because he lives in a residential care facility in Pittsburgh.

On May 31, 2013, Mother provided Father notice of relocation pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. § 5337(c). On June 10, 2013, Father filed a counter-affidavit regarding relocation under § 5337(d), wherein he objected to the proposed relocation and requested an evidentiary hearing. During the one-day hearing, Mother and Father both testified and presented additional witnesses. Mother called K.S. to the witness stand, and Father presented David A. Jones and Sarah Tingley, his daughters' respective principals, and his sister, S.M. ("Paternal Aunt"). On July 9, 2013, the trial court entered the above-referenced order and opinion denying Mother's petition for relocation. The opinion delineated the trial court's consideration of the ten statutory factors enumerated in 23 Pa.C.S. § 5337(h) that are relevant to relocation cases. Trial Court Opinion and Order, 7/9/13, at 5-8. This timely appeal followed.[3] Mother complied with Pa.R.A.P. (a)(2)(i) and filed a Rule 1925(b) statement concurrent with her notice of appeal.

Mother presents the following issues for our review:

1. Whether the trial court erred in refusing to grant Mother's request to relocate with the minor children to West Blocton, Alabama, when the testimony showed the father would have had more time with the children under Mother's propos[ed custody arrangement] than he currently enjoys?
2. Whether the trial court erred in denying Mother's request to relocate with the minor children when the testimony indicated that Mother would experience a significant financial benefit which would have a positive effect on the minor children?
3. Whether the trial court erred in denying Mother's request to relocate with the minor children when the testimony indicated that the minor children enjoy a close relationship with Mother's partner who had already relocated to West Blocton, Alabama?
4. Whether the trial court erred in denying Mother's request to relocate with the minor children when Mother presented sufficient competent, credible evidence to sustain her burden of proof that, based on the factors which must be considered for relocation, the relocation serves the best interest of the minor children?

Appellant's brief at 4.

4. We recently reiterated our scope and standard of review of a custody ...


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