Smead v. Liseee
A drastic change in academic performance and well-being can qualify as a change in circumstances that merits modification of primary residence. The minor child, 11, performed well in elementary school. When the parties divorced in 2009, the court granted joint custody, with primary residence with the mother. The mother re-married and moved with the minor child to Massachusetts. Although the minor child is bonded with his half-brother and half-sister, he informed the guardian ad litem, Attorney Jean Park, that he prefers to live with his father in Connecticut and to take a bus to school. Recently, the minor child has not completed homework assignments, and his grades decreased. Allegedly, the mother did not contact teachers to discuss their comments on his report card that he needs to work on study habits. The mother missed the parent-teacher conference. She was unaware the minor received an academic warning and could be dropped into lower-level courses. Allegedly, the mother did not know the names of his teachers or when he last visited a pediatrician. The father attended the parent-teacher conference, and he provides a more structured environment. After the father discovered that the minor child had become lost, when walking to school one morning, he purchased the child a cell, and he talks to him each day when he walks to school. The father argued that, absent a change in primary residence, the child's performance and well-being could continue to deteriorate. The mother objected that one semester that was not good should not merit a change in primary residence. To prevail on a motion to modify primary residence, a movant must establish a change in circumstances that merits modification. The court found that there was a change in circumstances, because the father takes greater interest than the mother in the minor's care and schooling. The mother did not appear to comprehend the seriousness of the child's poor academic performance and dismissed the incident when the minor was lost. The court found that the mother did not involve herself enough in the minor child's education. The court granted the father's request for primary residence.