14 Month Old Daughter’s Primary Residence with Father Upheld

14 Month Old Daughter’s Primary Residence with Father Upheld

Mother and Father are both physicians. In a 4-day divorce trial, they testified about their move to Fort Bend County so Father could begin a fellowship in pediatric oncology at Baylor College of Medicine, and Mother’s plan to move to Fort Bend County after she completed her residency in Atlanta. After he began his Baylor fellowship, Mother became pregnant and went to Orlando Florida where her parents live for her maternity leave. When their daughter was born, Mother finished her residency in Atlanta, moved to Fort Bend County, then took a job working for an urgent care company that required her to work two week shifts per month covering Houston and Orlando.  After her second shift in Orlando, she did not return.


Father asked for the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of their then 14-month old daughter. He testified that if he were given primary custody, he would encourage co-parenting with Mother, he wanted to create an environment where both parents were close to their daughter. He believed Mother did not want him to be involved in their daughter’s life, he would have limited access if Mother lived in Florida, and if their daughter remained in Fort Bend County he hoped Mother would move back permanently. 


Two of Father’s colleagues testified about Father’s work and parenting. His parents also testified about their son’s parenting and their relationships with the family. They felt Mother and her family had pushed Father’s family into the background. In accordance with Pakistani culture, they tried to help reconcile Mother and Father, but they were rebuffed.


Mother testified she felt Father’s parents were interfering in their lives and Father was involving them in the couple’s day-to-day discussions. She said she never intended to move to Texas. She registered her car, registered to vote, obtained a driver’s license, and co-signed a lease only because Father insisted she do so. She wanted to live permanently in Orlando, and applied for jobs in the Houston area only because she was interested to see what the job market was like. She said Father was a kind and loving husband, but he lied to her and mainly cared about himself and no one else. She offered Father time with their daughter during the work week in Florida so she could be available if anything happened or their daughter needed her.  She did not think it would be good for their daughter to be away from her for multiple nights because she’d never been away from her that long. She acknowledged that as a general practitioner she could be as successful in Houston as in Orlando. Her job in Orlando is very flexible, she has 7-days on and 7-days off; their daughter has a nursery in her parents’ home; she took their daughter to Disneyworld every other weekend when they lived in Florida. 


Mother’s parents testified: Mother is a wonderful and very loving mother, her life revolves around their daughter. They do not interfere in her life. Father never expressed anything but excitement about Mother’s job in Orlando. 


The trial judge gave Father the exclusive right to establish their daughter’s residence. Mother appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial judge’s ruling. And important factor in making custody decisions is the ability of the parents to give first priority to the welfare of the child and reach shared decisions in the child’s best interest. The trial judge observes the witnesses and is given great deference in judging their credibility. Considering all the evidence, the Court of Appeals determined that the trial judge’s rulings were neither arbitrary nor unreasonable.

Case reference:

Troiani v. Troiani, 2016 Tex. App. LEXIS 9962 (Tex.App. – Corpus Christi September 8, 2016) (mem. opinion) (Cause No. 13-14-00630-CV)

*Any article or blog post is for educational and informational purposes only and is not a substitute for the advice of a licensed Rivers McNamara attorney.

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