The trial court is vested with vast discretion in matters of child custody and visitation, and its determination is entitled to great weight and will not be disturbed on appeal unless a clear showing of abuse of its discretion is made.
A mother and father lived together for about a year and half, during which time they conceived a child. The father did not have any contact with the child until she was nearly three weeks old, but was extensively involved over the next seven months. The father sued for custody after the mother refused to allow the father to see the child. The trial court granted the father domiciliary parent status, despite evidence of the father’s marijuana usage and previous incarceration. The mother appealed.
Did the trial court err in making the father the domiciliary parent of his daughter?
The trial court did not abuse its discretion in making the father the domiciliary parent because the mother was unemployed, spent a significant amount of time in a house where drug deals occurred, where a child had died and where the child and other children had developed head lice, and frequently stayed out to party leaving the child with babysitters. The father, while testing positive for marijuana use and having been previously incarcerated, worked regularly, provided a home for the child, and seemed to have settled down and accepted fatherhood. The best interests of the child were served by making sure the child stayed with the father most of the time.