Judge John M. Hunt


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Paternal grandmother sought custody of her granddaughter, Sydney, who had resided with grandmother since infancy with both parents. Mother left the residence, leaving Sydney with father and grandmother. The parties divorced and father retained legal and physical custody of Sydney, with visitations—rarely effectuated—by mother. After father died, and mother was notified by grandmother, mother picked up Sydney to live with her, and refused any contact to grandmother, who sought visitation rights. Grandmother later filed for custody as Sydney stated she was unhappy and mistreated in mother’s home. A referee returned Sydney to grandmother’s home. At trial the court found grandmother’s testimony honest, and mother’s incredible as she appeared more concerned with receiving validation as Sydney’s mother, than a desire for her happiness. The court found that under the totality of the circumstances, and in furtherance of Sydney’s happiness and welfare, it was in her best interests to live with the grandmother, noting she lived there practically uninterrupted from the time she was a month old, until she was 12 years old, forming a fully bonded relationship. Thus, it awarded primary residential and legal custody to grandmother.