When Vaughn McMillen (plaintiff) and Carolyn Shemo (defendant), formerly McMillen, divorced in 1981, Shemo was awarded primary custody of the couple’s son, Emmett. McMillen was granted visitation rights. Over the next several years, McMillen succeeded in gaining additional visitation rights. Beginning in 1986, Emmett expressed a desire to live with his father rather than his mother. Emmett had a worse relationship with his mother and stepfather than with his father and stepmother who took a more active role in the boy’s life. He claimed that the stepfather harassed and frightened him. In 1988, the trial court awarded general custody of the boy to McMillen. The court found both parents’ homes to be equal and therefore awarded custody to McMillen on the basis of Emmett’s custodial preference. Upon Shemo’s appeal, the Superior Court vacated the order of the trial court and reinstated Shemo as the primary custodian. The Superior Court reasoned that the evidence did not justify a change of custody and that Emmett’s preference was not an indication of his best interests. McMillen appealed.