K.D. v. E.D.

The Pennsylvania Superior Court once again found itself playing referee in a toxic family fight. The Court affirmed the lower court’s order awarding a father therapeutic supervised partial physical custody of his three minor children. In 2016, the father filed a petition to modify a custody order to exercise supervised partial physical custody with the three children. A Wayne Co. Court of Common Pleas judge heard the matter and denied the father’s request. In 2019, the father filed a similar petition. The case was assigned to a Pike Co. judge because of the “Full Bench Recusal” by the Wayne Co. judges. The new judge heard evidence and then entered the order at issue in this appeal. Initially, the mother claimed on appeal that the new judge was bound by the prior judge’s findings under res judicata, collateral estoppel, and the coordinate jurisdiction rule. The Superior Court reviewed each of those legal theories and found none applied based mainly on the fluid nature of family disputes. The Court also held that the new trial court did not abuse its discretion in making factual findings contrary to the prior court, as the record supported those latest findings of fact. Lastly, the Superior Court rejected the mother’s claim that the supervised visitation was not in the child’s best interest.

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