Custody Cases IN Pittsburgh and Allegheny County
Appellate Cases Regarding Custody Including Grandparents’ & Other Third Party Rights:
- Collins v. Collins – Custody relocation case under Gruber relocation analysis. Mother sought to relocate with the minor children to Utah to live with her parents, work part-time, and pursue a college education. After a hearing, Father, who had serious financial difficulties, had not held a full-time job for a prolonged period of time, and risked losing the marital home was awarded primary custody although trial court found mother had been primary caregiver prior to separation and court found children were more closely bonded with mother. Superior Court reversed family court and permitted mother to move out of state with the minor children to her parents’ residence in Utah.
- Fuehrer v. Fuehrer – Custody relocation case under Gruber relocation analysis. Mother who was married to father at time of “meeting” a man from the Netherlands via the internet sought to relocate with parties’ two minor children to Netherlands were mother would be financially dependent upon the boyfriend. Superior Court reversed trial court’s order permitting mother to relocate and directed that mother should maintain custody, but must exercise it in Pennsylvania. Mother was denied the right to move out of the country with the children.
- Hiller v. Fausey – PA Supreme Court held that the PA Grandparent Visitation Statutes which allow grandparents to seek partial custody or visitation with their minor grandchildren are constitutional and rejected the argument that such statutes are a violation of the Due Process rights under the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution. The Supreme Court held the statute constitutional even after consideration of a fit parent’s rights regarding the care, custody, and control of their minor children.
- JF v. DB – PA Superior Court refused to comment on validity of surrogacy contracts. Fetus was conceived through use of sperm donated by father that was used to artificially inseminate eggs donated by an egg donor. The appellate court determined that the gestational carrier of fetus lacked standing to challenge biological father’s custody of triplets and also lacked standing to seek termination of the parental rights of the egg donor.
- Lawrence v. Bordner – PA Appellate Court ruled that a Protection from Abuse (PFA) order may temporarily suspend a previously entered custody order if necessary to prevent abuse.
- Little-Stepp v. Cancilla and Little-Stepp – Father’s adoptive mother may seek partial custody or visitation of minor grandchild under PA Grandparent Visitation statutes.
- Saintz v. Rinker – Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed family court’s order transferring primary custody of child from mother to father when child expressed a desire to live with father and felt emotionally burdened by helping to raise his half-siblings. Court ordered that separation of child from his half-siblings was appropriate since the children had the same partial custody schedules with mother on her weekends of custody.
- Hogrelius v. Martin – Trial court’s grant of mother’s request to relocate from Pennsylvania to Virginia was affirmed by Superior Court when the mother sought to relocate to reside with her new husband whose income afforded mother the opportunity to not work and provided the mother and the child a greater standard of living. In addressing the third prong of the Gruber relocation analysis, the Superior Court held that the trial court’s determination is not whether the alternative schedule would maintain the current level of the non-custodial parent’s interaction with the children, but rather whether the substitute arrangements will foster adequately an ongoing relationship between the non-custodial parent and the children.
- Ottolini v. Barrett – The Superior Court held that all interviews of children in child custody litigation must be done with a court reporter present and in the presence of counsel who shall be afforded an opportunity to question the children under the court’s supervision. The Superior Court further held that it was an error for the trial court to consider the report of an expert who the court directed to perform a custody evaluation without the expert appearing for the purpose of cross-examination.
- N.H.M. v. P.O.T. – The Pennsylvania Superior Court held that transfer of primary custody of child from mother in Pennsylvania to father in California was appropriate when child had suffered emotional harm as result of sexual abuse in mother’s home. The fact that the child’s interview by the judge was not transcribed was held to be harmless error since testimony from other witnesses including mother confirmed the sexual contact between the child and another child living in the residence.
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