CASE SUMMARY: Arnhold v. McLean, 11-P-2151

Monday, July 30, 2012

Arnhold v. McLean, 11-P-2151

This case involves a Judgment allowing a mother’s request for removal to Florida.  The parties were never married and the mother had always been the primary caretaker of the two minor children. The maternal grandmother provided a great deal of support to the mother including child care.  The father opposed the mother’s request for removal and sought joint legal and physical custody of the children.  The trial judge, in denying joint legal custody, found that the parties were unable to communicate or effectively co-parent.  In addition, until he filed his complaint for modification, the father did not participate in any meaningful way in the children’s school or medical needs nor in any similar parenting decisions. The trial court’s allowance of the mother’s request for removal was amply supported by findings of fact.  The court applied the Yannas standard and found that the mother’s desire to move with the children’s grandmother to Florida where she would have a shared residence, would be able work for her current employer in Florida, and would have full benefits constituted a real advantage. The trial court did not err by not making specific findings relative to precisely how the special needs of the older child would be met in Florida and how the move would disrupt the children’s relationship with the father as the trial court found that the  father’s  participation in the children’s lives after the litigation began was opportunistic.  The Appeals Court did not agree with the father’s contention that the absence of an actual home or job that had been secured prior to the move rendered the mother’s plans “mere speculation.”  The Appeals Court commented that “[S]uch an argument appears to seek advantage from the mother’s reticence in risking costly preparations, such as the purchase of a new home and termination of employment, in advance of obtaining court permission, steps that her financial circumstances would not permit doing without such permission.”