Custody and Child Support • Parent’s Criminal Conduct • Best Interests of Child

S.J. v. T.M.T., PICS Case No. 13-3389 (C.P. Monroe Nov. 6, 2013) Mark, J. (8 pages).

The court held father’s appeal issues in this child custody matter were meritless, affirming the denial of the relief sought in father’s motion to modify.

S.J. and T.M.T. are the parents of a minor child, K.J. S.J., father, filed a motion regarding custody of the child, alleging mother, T.M.T., engaged in criminal conduct in the presence of the child. After a hearing, the court denied the relief sought by S.J.

The opinion on the appeal was not filed within the 30-day Children’s Fast Track time frame because S.J. did not initially file a state-ment of errors, and when he did later file the statement, he failed to properly serve it. S.J. also failed to request the transcript of the announcement hearing.

With regard to the substantive issues raised in father’s appeal, the court held that it did not abuse its discretion in denying the S.J.’s petition for recommendation due to mother’s criminal conduct. Father’s belief that the record and custody factors should be weighed differently and in his favor did not establish an abuse of discretion or an error of law. S.J. did not allege a cognizable basis for reviewing the court’s discretionary decision, such as fraud, after-discovered evidence, breakdown in the proceedings, extraordinary circumstances, manifest injustice or anything new.

S.J. alleged criminal conduct on the part of mother, but the court noted that S.J. himself had engaged in violent conduct toward T.M.T. in the presence of the child. Similar conduct on the part of T.M.T. did not disqualify her from being the child’s custodian. The parties had a tumultuous relationship, but the court found that when they were apart, neither party posed a safety risk to the child. When asked at trial about the child’s health, safety and welfare while in the physical custody of the other party, both S.J. and T.M.T. responded that they did not have any such concerns.

S.J. did not request sole legal or sole physical custody of the parties’ minor child in his petition, nor did he ask that mother’s contact with the child be supervised. In fact, the court found that S.J. was allowing T.M.T. to have more contact with the child than the existing custody order provided, even during a period of high conflict between the parties.

The court held that father’s appeal issues did not have merit and that the order entered effectuated the best interests of the parties’ minor child.