Submitted: October 25, 209
Below-Family Court of the State of Delaware File No.
CN12-06874, Petition No. 18-14759
VALIHURA, VAUGHN, and TRAYNOR, Justices.
L. VALIHURA, JUSTICE
consideration of the parties' briefs and the record on
appeal, it appears to the Court that:
appellant, Caleb Ravin ("the Father"), filed this
appeal from a Family Court order granting the parties'
joint custody of their son, granting the appellee, Lynn
Spears ("the Mother"), primary placement of the son
with the Father having visitation, and granting the
Mother's motion for permission to relocate to Georgia. We
affirm the Family Court's judgment.
parties are the parents of a son born in 2009 ("the
Child"). They had a tumultuous relationship, moving back
and forth between Delaware and Georgia from 2008 through
2012. Beginning in 2012, they both stayed in Delaware. In
June 2013, the parties entered into a custody consent order.
They agreed on joint custody with the Mother having primary
residential placement. Under the consent order, the Father
had visitation every weekend with the parties agreeing to
increase contact during the week depending on the
Father's work schedule.
May 17, 2018, the Father filed a petition to modify custody.
In the petition, the Father opposed the Mother's plans to
move to Georgia with the Child at the end of the school year
and asked that the Child live primarily with him. In her
answer to the petition, the Mother admitted that she wished
to move to Georgia with the Child. She did not file a motion
for permission to relocate to Georgia.
October 29, 2018, the Family Court held a hearing on the
Father's petition. Both the Father and the Mother
testified about the Mother's desire to move to Georgia.
The Family Court noted that the Mother had not filed a
petition for relocation. On December 11, 2018, the Mother
filed a motion for permission to move to Georgia. She
attached a job offer from a Georgia employer that paid more
and offered more regular hours than her Delaware job.
December 13, 2018, the Family Court issued its decision.
After weighing the best interest factors under 13 Del.
C. § 722 and the factors set forth in the Model
Relocation Act, the Family Court awarded the parties joint
custody of the Child, granted the Mother primary residential
placement, and allowed the Mother to move to Georgia. The
Father was granted visitation that included summers, winter
and spring breaks, and one weekend a month. This appeal
followed. The Father filed a motion for an emergency ex parte
order in the Family Court to prevent the Mother from moving
to Georgia with the Child. The Family Court denied the
This Court's review of a Family Court decision includes a
review of both the law and the facts. Conclusions of law
are reviewed de novo. The Family Court's
factual findings will not be disturbed on appeal if they are
supported by the record and are the product of an orderly and
logical deductive process.
Under Delaware law, the Family Court must determine legal
custody and residential arrangements for a child in
accordance with the best interests of the child. The criteria
for determining the best interests of a child are set forth
in 13 Del. C. § 722. When considering a
petition for relocation, the Family Court may consider-in
addition to the required § 722 factors-the factors set
forth in the Model Relocation Act.
appeal, the Father first argues that the Family Court erred
by granting the Mother's motion to relocate without
giving the Father an opportunity to file a responsive
pleading or argue against relocation. The record below does
not support this argument. It is true that the Mother did not
file a motion for permission to relocate until after the
October 2018 hearing, but the Father raised the Mother's
desire to relocate in his petition to modify custody. On the
first page of the petition, the Father stated that he did not
want the Mother to take the Child to Georgia as she wished to
do. The Father then explained why the Child should stay with
him in Delaware. In her answer to the Father's petition,
the Mother admitted that she wished to move to Georgia with
the October 2018 hearing, the Family Court noted that the
Mother had not filed a petition for relocation when the
subject of a move to Georgia came up. The Family Court
proceeded to hear testimony about why the Mother wished to
move to Georgia, the parties' connections to Delaware and
Georgia, and the Mother's proposal (which the Father
received before filing his petition) for the Father's
visitation with the Child if she was allowed to move to
Georgia. The Family Court questioned the Father about the
Mother's statements and gave him the opportunity to
respond to her testimony. The only new evidence that the
Mother offered in her December 2018 motion to relocate was
documentation of the ...