A Las Vegas father is asking the Nevada Supreme Court to reconsider its recent decision involving his young son’s move to California.
The father, Ian Druckman, also wants the high court to impose specific consequences for the “wrongful and unauthorized relocation of children.”
In its June decision, the high court ruled 5-2 that Family Court Judge William Gonzalez did not abuse his discretion when he approved the mother’s out-of-state move with the child.
“We hold that the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting the mother’s motion for primary physical custody and relocation because the court considered all the relevant and necessary factors, including the reasons for the relocation and the child’s best interest, before making the determination,” Justice Michael Douglas wrote in the majority opinion.
The case involves two parents, Druckman and Audria Ruscitti, who had a child together but were never married. The boy is now 4.
After the couple separated, Ruscitti moved with the child to California for better job opportunities, without Druckman’s consent or knowledge. They did not have a judicial custody order.
Druckman filed a motion in Family Court for the child’s immediate return and for an award of primary physical custody. Ruscitti then asked the court to award her primary physical custody and to allow the child to remain with her in California. Gonzalez granted the mother’s requests.
According to the Supreme Court opinion, Gonzalez found a good faith reason for Ruscitti’s move: her employment opportunities in California and the fact that the parents previously had contemplated moving together out of state.
On Monday, attorneys Michael Carman and Corinne Price filed a petition for rehearing on Druckman’s behalf.
“The court inadvertently established a dangerous legal precedent that will encourage parents to wrongfully remove children from the state in the hope that they can establish a ‘good faith’ justification for relocation after the fact,” the lawyers wrote.
According to the petition, language in the ruling “has led to the widely held belief among family law practitioners that this decision actually condones the unauthorized removal of children from the state prior to the entry of a judicial custodial determination.”
In a blog post about the decision, Henderson attorney Keith Pickard wrote, “The court has invited unmarried mothers to move first and ask permission later, abrogating its historical support of the rights of fathers.”
He concluded by advising unmarried men to avoid having children “if they hope to keep them in their lives.”
Four justices concurred with Douglas’ opinion: Mark Gibbons, Kristina Pickering, James Hardesty and Ron Parraguirre.
Justice Nancy Saitta wrote a dissenting opinion in which she argued that the majority “fails to fully recognize that Audria’s removal of the child from the state without Ian’s consent or prior judicial authorization was wrongful.”
“I am deeply concerned that the majority opinion may encourage an unmarried parent to relocate the child without the other parent’s knowledge or consent in an effort to create an unfair advantage in a custody determination,” she wrote.
Justice Michael Cherry agreed with the dissenting opinion.
Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-384-8710. Find her on Twitter: @CarriGeer.