588 S.E.2d 102 (S.C. 2003), 25735, Davis v. Davis

Docket Nº:25735.
Citation:588 S.E.2d 102, 356 S.C. 132
Party Name:356 S.C. 132 Charles Edward DAVIS, Petitioner, v. Mary Lu DAVIS, Respondent.
Case Date:October 13, 2003
Court:Supreme Court of South Carolina
 
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Page 102

588 S.E.2d 102 (S.C. 2003)

356 S.C. 132

Charles Edward DAVIS, Petitioner,

v.

Mary Lu DAVIS, Respondent.

No. 25735.

Supreme Court of South Carolina

Oct. 13, 2003.

Heard May 29, 2003.

Rehearing Denied Nov. 19, 2003.

[356 S.C. 133] Douglas Kosta Kotti, of Columbia, and Timothy S. Mirshak, of Augusta, GA, for Petitioner.

C. Dixon Lee, III, of McLaren & Lee, of Columbia, and Vicki Johnson Snelgrove, of

Page 103

Johnson, Johnson, Whittle & Snelgrove, of Aiken, for Respondent.

James L. Verenes, of Fox & Verenes, of Aiken, for Guardian Ad Litem.

Justice BURNETT:

Charles Edward Davis ("Father") appeals the decision of the court below awarding custody of Child to Mary Lu Davis ("Mother"). Davis v. Davis, Op. No.2001-UP-360 (Ct.App. filed July 12, 2001). We reverse.

FACTS

Father and Mother were married in December 1992. Child was born in March 1995. During the first 26 months of [356 S.C. 134] Child's life, Father and Mother mutually agreed Mother would remain home as Child's primary caregiver. Father continued work outside of the home, but remained actively involved in Child's life. Father assumed a greater caregiver role upon Mother's returning to work outside the home.

Father and Mother separated in October 1997. Mother retained temporary custody of Child while Father had visitation rights including custody of the Child every other weekend. Additionally, Mother worked amicably with Father to ensure he could see his son during the week.

At the final custody hearing, Mother stated she intended to move to Beaufort if she won custody to be nearer to relatives. She testified she would not move if Father were awarded custody.

The Child has lived in Aiken since birth; attended the same day care for several years; had a network of regular friends with whom he played; and his doctors were in the Aiken area.

Both the court-appointed psychologist and the guardian ad litem testified the decision to award custody was an extremely close question. Ultimately each concluded the Mother should be granted custody of Child, provided she remain in Aiken. If she returned to Beaufort, both determined it would be in Child's best interest that custody be granted to Father. The psychologist noted moving to Beaufort would not be in Child's best interest because it would limit contact with Father, resulting in a negative impact on their relationship and, thus, a negative impact on Child.

The family court awarded custody to Father, and granted liberal...

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