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Custody Determination Affirmed

In a battle for primary physical custody of their daughter, father contends that the circuit court’s custody determination was inconsistent with the evidence, the court’s own factual findings and the statutory factors.  The Court of Appeals disagreed with father, affirming the court’s decision to award mother physical custody of daughter.

Around the time of the birth of their first and only child, the couple moved in with father’s parents for financial reasons and for childcare assistance.  Father had previously been fired from his job as a bank teller; mother has degrees in accounting and pharmacy and is employed by a CPA as a receptionist and office manager.  The couple’s relationship soured and mother moved into the grandparents’ finished basement; father and daughter resided upstairs.

The next few years involved incidents typical of marital demise—the father didn’t inform mother that the family’s healthcare terminated when he was fired; the mother took a solo trip to Florida but told the father she was taking their daughter to visit family in Kansas; the mother took daughter to a psychologist when she noticed bruises on daughter’s legs instead of asking father about the cause (considering that the father had no history of abuse).

The circuit court considered all the evidence, enumerated concerns over mother’s honesty and temper, and the father’s maturity since he lives with his parents at age 37.  The court also considered that at this point in the separation, mother was willing to share physical custody if father moved to Fredericksburg.

Considering all the factors and the best interests of the child, the court awarded both parents joint legal custody but awarded primary physical custody to mother, subject to father’s visitation rights.

The court’s role was to determine which parent would be a better custodian for their daughter by taking into consideration the statutory factors and any other factors the court deems necessary and proper to the determination.  The court expressly addressed each of the factors contained in the statute and additional relevant factors.  After considering these factors, the court determined that mother was a more suitable custodian.  Father contends that his maturity and economic independence was an irrelevant or improper factor, but he provided no legal argument to support his assertion.  Even if his unfounded claim is true, this would only prove that the court considered an otherwise appropriate factor in an improper manner, which is an entirely different matter.

The court fully explained its ruling regarding primary custody, discussing each statutory factor and other factors it found relevant.  In short, father has not demonstrated an abuse of discretion in the court’s custody ruling.

The Appeals Court affirms the court’s award of primary physical custody to mother and denies mother’s request for appellate attorney’s fees.

Lijeron v. LIjeron (Malveaux) No. 1344-16-4, Sept. 5, 2017; Fairfax County Cir.Ct. (Maxfield) Luis A. Perez for appellant; Eric E. Clingan for appellee. (VLW 017-7-218).

VLW 017-7-218