Matter of Lori DD. v. Shawn EE.
Justice Elizabeth A. Garry
Father Shawn appealed from an order granting mother Lori's application to modify a prior custody order. The parents entered into a court-ordered stipulation providing for joint custody of the subject child with primary physical custody to Lori. Lori subsequently sought modification arguing Shawn sexually abused the child. After a fact-finding hearing, the Family Court awarded Lori sole custody of the child and granted her request to relocate to Panama. The court found expert testimony revealed the child showed symptoms typical of children who were sexually abused. It found, and agreed, that such testimony supplied the necessary corroboration for the hearsay testimony describing the child's statements of sexual abuse by the father. Further, the Family Court's conclusion that the child's bond with the father was "obliterated by his harmful conduct" strongly supported the proposed relocation to the distant locale. The court noted Lori's testimony revealed the child's best interests would be promoted by the move, including the child's familiarity with the social environment, her opportunities to interact with friends and extended family. This court ruled it would not disturb Family Court's determination, affirming the order.