Norris v. Norris: Moving Children Out of State and Child Custody

Posted by Steven D. Eversole | Apr 10, 2015 | 0 Comments

Norris v. Norris, a case from the Supreme Court of Alaska, involved married couple that met in Fairbanks when husband was stationed on a military base there.  Wife had been living there since 2006.  Husband was originally from Mississippi.  The two met and became involved in a romantic relationship.  They had a child in 2011 and got married just after child's birth.  Unfortunately, as is the case for many marriages, they began having relationship troubles.

Deep snow on alaskan peaks 1390517 m

In an attempt to put their marital troubles behind them and “start a new life,” the couple decided to move to husband's hometown in Mississippi.  Husband's employer, the United States Army, moved all of the couple's belongings, including their personal vehicle, to their new home.  Husband registered their car as soon as it arrived, and both parties completed change of address forms with the U.S. Postal Service.

Wife began unpacking their child's room and setting up their new home, while husband began attending college during the day and working at night.  Meanwhile, wife found a job at a local deli but quit soon thereafter.  The couple also found a pediatrician for their child, and he saw that doctor several times during the time couple was living there.

The following year, husband moved out of the marital home, and the parties informally shared custody of their minor child.  At some point after this, wife told husband she and their son were going to return to Alaska permanently.  Husband testified at trial he did not agree to a permanent relocation, was not happy about the move, and had demanded an agreement in writing. At this point wife sent husband a text message saying she was taking child back to Alaska and was going to take husband for everything he was worth.

Husband was worried about his child and contacted police to prevent her from taking child.  He then filed a divorce proceeding in Mississippi, and the court entered a temporary custody order.  As our Birmingham divorce attorneys can explain, at the start of a divorce proceeding, courts will typically enter a temporary custody and child support order and then vacate this temporary order when a settlement is reached or a trial is held, and judge will make a new order in the best interests of the child.

This temporary custody order barred either husband or wife from taking child more than 100 miles away from the other without prior written consent.  Wife allegedly violated this custody order, took child to Alaska, and filed a divorce matter in that state.  Husband answered the complaint and moved to dismiss the case, stating the court lacked proper jurisdiction to hear the case, and submitted the temporary child custody order as proof.

The Alaska court held a series of hearings and determined it still had proper jurisdiction, because the parties were not living in Mississippi long enough to have jurisdiction. However, the court said it would revisit its ruling if the parties submitted a motion for reconsideration. The court held a hearing on whether the parties made a change in the place of residence to Mississippi and, this time, agreed with husband and dismissed the case.

Mother appealed this dismissal.  On appeal, the court looked at the facts surrounding family's move to Mississippi and affirmed trial court's dismissal finding no error of law as to determining family's intent to relocate.

Additional Resources:

Norris v. Norris, March 27, 2015, Alaska Supreme Court, Jan. 21, 2015, By Cheryl K. Chumley, The Washington Times

About the Author

Steven D. Eversole

J.D., Samford University's Cumberland School of Law, Birmingham, Alabama B.A., University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama

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