Equal Custody Trumps Long Commute to School

April 12, 2015 | Child Custody, Court Decisions, Legal Perspective

Icon for author Brian Vertz Brian Vertz

When one parent moves to a new neighborhood after having equal shared custody, the move might cause a longer commute time for a children traveling to and from school.  In a recent published decision, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania considered whether it was reasonable to shift primary custody to one parent in order to limit the child’s commuting time.

In R.S. v. T.T., 2015 Pa. Super. 72 (April 10, 2015), the mother of a 6 year old child was awarded primary custody because equally shared custody would require the child to commute up to 40 minutes to and from school if he stayed with Father during the week.  Both parents agreed that a shared custody schedule would require the child to spend too much time riding back and forth in a car.  Mother testified that a shared custody schedule had become impractical when the child start to attend full day elementary school, as it would prevent the child from establishing predictable routines and establishing roots.  The trial court agreed, holding that the commuting would undermine the child’s stability.

The Superior Court disagreed, overturning the trial court’s decision.  First, the Court noted that Mother and Father had not agreed to terminate the shared custody arrangement in order to avoid commuting. Next, the Court held that a child’s attachment to his parent was more important than avoidance of a 40 minute daily commute.  The Court even suggested a week on/week off custody schedule to minimize the number of weekly custody exchanges.

The Court also emphasize the importance of considering all ramifications stemming from a change in the custody arrangement. Finding that the trial court had not adequately considering the potential damage to the child’s relationship with his father, the Superior Court vacated the order.

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