A recent decision from a New York appellate court made clear that, even if a parent is within his or her rights to do something, that does not mean that a court cannot consider that in custody decisions. There, separated parents shared custody of their mixed-race daughter. The child’s mother had a decorative rock at her home painted with a confederate flag. The appeals court noted that, even though the mother was within her constitutional rights to have the flag displayed, the mother had a matter of weeks to remove it or the trial court could consider whether such a display served the child’s best interest.
This case illustrates a rationale that Pennsylvania custody courts routinely apply, as well. In addition to a number of factors explicitly laid out in the Custody Act, judges deciding custody cases are permitted to weigh any “relevant factors” impacting the best interest of a child. This gives a court a lot of latitude to consider whether, for instance, a person who drinks too much or who associates with objectionable people should have his or her custodial time limited. As the New York case shows, even exercising a constitutional right can be contrary to the best interest of a child and could have a negative impact on custody.
If you have questions about your custody matter, please contact my office for a consultation and evaluation of your case.