from the Order Entered October 15, 2018 In the Court of
Common Pleas of Northumberland County Civil Division at
BEFORE: SHOGAN, J., DUBOW, J., and PELLEGRINI [*] , J.
("Mother") appeals from the October 15, 2018 order
denying her petition for modification of a custody
order. After careful review, we vacate and
and M.M. ("Father") are the parents of I.M.
("Child"), who was born in January of 2014. The
underlying custody action was initiated by Mother pro
se in June of 2016, when Child was two years old. Mother
asserted that Father "has not been a constant in
[Child's] life," and she requested an award of
primary physical custody. Custody Complaint, 6/22/16, at
¶ 7. Following a hearing, the trial court granted Mother
and Father shared legal custody, Mother primary physical
custody, and Father supervised physical custody on
alternating Saturdays for four to five hours. Order, 12/20/16,
at ¶¶ 1-3. Thereafter, the parties participated in
custody conciliation conferences, which resulted in
agreed-upon interim orders maintaining shared legal custody
and reducing Father's supervised physical custody to one
Saturday every four weeks for no more than five
hours. See Interim Orders 9/27/17,
1/24/18 (providing Father "supervised periods of partial
physical custody once every four weeks" with Mother
filed a petition for modification of custody on April 23,
2018. Mother alleged that Father was inconsistent in
exercising supervised physical custody and that he has
brought "several partners" around Child. Petition
for Modification, 4/23/18, at ¶ 3. Mother requested the
trial court to award her "full legal custody," as
opposed to shared legal custody as had been ordered in prior
orders. Id. at ¶ 4. Following a custody
conciliation conference, the court issued an agreed-upon
interim order filed on June 7, 2018, granting Mother sole
legal custody but directing her to inform Father of all legal
custody decisions. Order, 6/7/18. The interim order
maintained Father's supervised physical custody one
Saturday every four weeks and permitted Father to contact
Child by "video chat" every Monday, Wednesday, and
Friday for at least five minutes, beginning at 7:00 p.m.
trial court held a custody hearing on October 10, 2018,
during which Andrea Pulizzi, Esquire, represented Mother, and
Father appeared pro se. On October 15, 2018, the
trial court denied Mother's petition to modify custody.
Order, 10/15/18. The court continued its prior orders
granting the parties shared legal custody, Mother primary
physical custody, and Father partial physical custody.
Id. However, the trial court also modified
Father's period of custody; it awarded Father custody of
Child on the first weekend of each month from Saturday at
10:00 a.m. to Sunday at 5:00 p.m. Id. Additionally,
the trial court directed that the custody exchange would
occur in Milford, Pennsylvania. Id. Finally, the trial
court granted Father telephone contact with Child every
Tuesday and Thursday prior to 7:30 p.m. Id.
October 29, 2018, Mother filed a pro se notice of
appeal. The trial court filed its opinion pursuant
to Pa.R.A.P. 1925(a) on January 15, 2018.
appeal, Mother presents the following issues for our review:
I. Whether the trial court erred in failing to utilize the
relevant factors in determining the best interests of the
II. Whether the trial court erred by increasing
[Father's] periods of visitation despite testimony and
admissions [that Father] wasn't utilizing the time
provided to him at time of trial[?]
Mother's Brief at 4.
review Mother's issues pursuant to the following scope
and standard of review:
[T]he appellate court is not bound by the deductions or
inferences made by the trial court from its findings of fact,
nor must the reviewing court accept a finding that has no
competent evidence to support it. . . . However, this broad
scope of review does not vest in the reviewing court the duty
or the privilege of making its own independent determination.
. . . Thus, an appellate court is empowered to determine
whether the trial court's incontrovertible factual
findings support its factual conclusions, but it may not
interfere with those conclusions unless they are unreasonable
in view of the trial court's factual findings; and thus,
represent a gross abuse of discretion.
R.M.G., Jr. v. F.M.G., 986 A.2d 1234, 1237 (Pa.
Super. 2009) (quoting Bovard v. Baker, 775 A.2d 835,
838 (Pa. Super. 2001)). Moreover,
[O]n issues of credibility and weight of the evidence, we
defer to the findings of the trial [court] who has had the
opportunity to observe the proceedings and demeanor of the
The parties cannot dictate the amount of weight the trial
court places on evidence. Rather, the paramount concern of
the trial court is the best interest of the child. Appellate
interference is unwarranted if the trial court's
consideration of the best interest of the child was careful
and thorough, and we are unable to find any abuse of
R.M.G., Jr., supra at 1237 (internal citations
omitted). The test is whether the evidence of record supports
the trial court's conclusions. Ketterer v.
Seifert, 902 A.2d 533, 539 (Pa. Super. 2006).
A.V. v. S.T., 87 A.3d 818, 820 (Pa. Super. 2014).
primary focus in any custody case is the best interests of
the child. "The best-interests standard, decided on a
case-by-case basis, considers all factors that legitimately
have an effect upon the child's physical, intellectual,
moral, and spiritual well[-]being." Saintz v.
Rinker, 902 A.2d 509, 512 (Pa. Super. 2006) (citing
Arnold v. Arnold, 847 A.2d 674, 677 (Pa. Super.
well settled that trial courts are required to consider
"[a]ll of the factors listed in section 5328(a) . . .
when entering a custody order." J.R.M. v.
J.E.A.,33 A.3d 647, 652 (Pa. Super. 2011) (emphasis in