Joint custody: One Judge’s attitude

Joint Custody

In the recent case of LEWIS v. RULA, NO. 2018-CA-01713-COA (Decided 03/24/2020), the Court of Appeals affirmed a trial Judge’s change of custody to the father after the mother and her new husband moved 250 miles away. The Judge correctly found that when the parties share joint physical custody, a move by one of the parties constitutes a “material change in circumstances” warranting a modification of the custody. The interesting thing about this is the trial Judge’s attitude, based on her experience, towards joint custody and the reasons people agree to it:

“A review of the record shows that during the trial the chancellor was reluctant to modify custody. She explained that she had encountered too many parties who agreed to joint custody "just to get what they need[ed,] when they want[ed] it." The chancellor asked why Nathan and Tiffany initially agreed to joint physical custody, and Tiffany's attorney responded that there were "a lot of reasons." However, Nathan's attorney stated that when the divorce on the grounds of uncondoned adultery was pending, Nathan was "pursuing full custody" of B.B. The chancellor then stated, "I know that when I have a divorce on grounds and the parties come in and they agree and they do it - - and I don't know why they do it because they feel they might lose or whatever. Then they come back within five years wanting to change it, I have difficulties with that." The chancellor further stated, "[T]his [c]ourt does not like it when people . . . enter into an agreement to keep one party from getting paramount physical custody . . . without anticipating what your ages are[,] . . . what your jobs [*8] are, [and] your abilities to move. And then you come back to me and say,  oh, well, I moved and I want to change things."

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