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James R. v. Kylie R.

Supreme Court of Alaska

March 7, 2014

JAMES R., Appellant,
v.
KYLIE R., Appellee

Page 274

Appeal from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Third Judicial District, Anchorage, Mark Rindner, Judge. Superior Court No. 3AN-12-05207 CI.

Mitchell K. Wyatt and Rhonda F. Butterfield, Anchorage, for Appellant.

Gayle J. Brown, Anchorage, for Appellee.

Before: Fabe, Chief Justice, Winfree, Stowers, Maassen, and Bolger, Justices.

OPINION

Page 275

FABE, Chief Justice.

I. INTRODUCTION

Two parents shared joint custody of their child during the pendency of their divorce, but the father's plans to move out of state led both parents to seek primary physical custody upon the father's relocation. The superior court granted primary physical custody to the mother, concluding that all of the statutory factors but one were neutral between the parents but that the mother was more likely than the father to facilitate a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child.

The father appeals. He argues that the superior court erred in two ways: first, by failing to find that the father had superior capability to meet the child's needs, and second, by prompting the father to discuss his concerns about the mother's parenting and then holding those concerns against the father in the continuing-relationship determination. We affirm the superior court's determinations in all respects.

II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

A. The Relationship

Kylie R. and James R. were married in July 2010.[1] Kylie gave birth to their daughter in July 2011.

James deployed with his Army unit to Afghanistan in December 2011 on a tour that was originally slated to last until October 2013. James and Kylie's relationship soured in the following months, and Kylie and their daughter moved out of the marital home at some point. (The exact date was disputed by the parties.) On February 5, 2012, Kylie sent James a message on Facebook that James paraphrased at trial as saying, " I'm moving out, James. I'm filing for divorce." Worried, James obtained permission to leave Afghanistan early and returned to Alaska on

Page 276

February 13, 2012 to deal with his deteriorating family situation.

B. Preliminary Proceedings And Domestic Violence Petitions

On February 9, 2012, Kylie filed a complaint for divorce against James in which she sought primary physical and sole legal custody of their daughter. James counterclaimed for divorce on March 13, 2012, seeking primary physical and legal custody.

The parents filed a total of five petitions for 20-day and long-term domestic violence protective orders against each other in the course of their divorce action. In all but one petition, the court initially granted the 20-day protective order ex parte but subsequently dissolved the short-term protective order and denied the petition for a long-term protective order after a hearing or on the mutual request of the parties.[2]

One petition ultimately led to a long-term domestic violence protective order. James petitioned for 20-day and long-term domestic violence protective orders against Kylie on February 22, 2012. Among other allegations, James focused on two particular incidents: one in December 2011, in which Kylie allegedly smoked marijuana and neglected their daughter for an evening, and another on February 21, 2012, in which Kylie allegedly came to James's house, grabbed their daughter without his permission, put their daughter with Kylie's sister in the back seat of a car, and sped off without ...


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