The Berks County Court of Common Pleas issued an opinion in November granting a father’s petition to modify custody to have equal custody time of his two children. The name of the case was Meister v. Meister.

Prior to filing to modify custody, the father had partial custody while the children were in school but shared custody equally with the mother during the summer. He filed to modify because he had a flexible schedule and wanted to spend more time with the children.

In assessing his request to modify the current custody order, the court considered a number of facts in reaching its decision and analyzed them in relation to the custody factors that Pennsylvania’s custody statute requires courts to consider.

The court considered that both parents lived in the same school district, were both exceedingly capable of providing stability and continuity in the children’s education, family and community life, and that both parents were involved in all aspects of the children’s lives and made the children their top priority. Additionally, both sets of grandparents lived in proximity to the children and were involved in their lives.

The court also focused on the mother’s hostility towards the father, which stemmed from her lingering anger about the father’s infidelity during the marriage. She showed fearful behaviors toward the father and only communicated with him by email. She also acted uncivilly toward father during custody exchanges and rebuffed his attempts to communicate on friendly terms. The court faulted the mother for her behavior towards father, finding that her negative behavior in front of the children was unhealthy for them.

The court’s decision was a strong example of the gender neutrality of Pennsylvania’s custody laws. It also showed how fact-intensive custody cases are.

If you or a friend is facing a custody issue, it is best to hire an attorney to help you sort out the relevant facts to help the court understand what is best for your children. Please contact the family law attorneys at Petrelli Previtera to learn more.