A trial court's decision concerning custody cannot be reversed by a reviewing court absent an abuse of discretion. An abuse of discretion implies an attitude of the trial court that is unreasonable, arbitrary, or unconscionable. A decision is unreasonable if there is no sound reasoning process that would support that decision. On appeal, a reviewing court may not substitute its judgment for that of the trial court.
A wife, Kimberly Rowe, left her marital residence bring her child with her and filed a complaint for divorce against her husband, Donald J. Franklin. Both parties filed motions for temporary parenting rights and support. While the custody determination was pending and with the knowledge of Franklin, Rowe moved with the child to another state. Following a hearing 18 months after the parties separated, the trial court removed custody from Rowe and allocated full parental rights to Franklin. Rowe argued that her move was an inappropriate basis for denial of custody.
Did the trial court abuse its discretion in designating Franklin as residential parent and legal guardian of a child in place of Rowe?
The court held that the trial court abused its discretion in designating Franklin as residential parent and legal guardian of a child in place of Rowe who had had temporary custody for 18 months pending a final custody determination, where the trial court did not consider in its analysis of the best interests of the child, whether Rowe’s conduct in furthering her education, moving to Kentucky, pursuing her career, becoming involved in a relationship with a man soon after the breakup of her marriage, and having his child had a direct adverse impact on the child, but instead relied on a "reproval of the mother" test in its analysis.