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Norris v. Norris

Supreme Court of Alaska

March 27, 2015

BRIANA A. NORRIS, Appellant,
v.
RICHARD K. NORRIS, Appellee

Appeal from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Fourth Judicial District, Fairbanks, Paul R. Lyle, Judge. Superior Court No. 4FA-12-02918 CI.

Megan C. Comolli and Jason A. Weiner, Gazewood ... Weiner, P.C., Fairbanks, for Appellant.

Amy Tallerico, Downes ... Tallerico Law Firm, LLC, Fairbanks, for Appellee.

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

OPINION

Page 925

STOWERS, Justice.

I. INTRODUCTION

A married couple moved from Fairbanks to Mississippi to " start a new life" and work on their marriage. After living in Mississippi for a few months the husband filed for divorce, and a Mississippi court entered a temporary child custody order awarding the couple joint physical custody of their child. A few months later the mother fled to Alaska with the child and filed for divorce in the Alaska Superior Court. The superior court dismissed the mother's action, concluding that Mississippi had exclusive jurisdiction over the matter under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA).[1] We affirm. Mississippi had

Page 926

jurisdiction when it issued its temporary child custody order because (1) Alaska did not have home state or recent home state jurisdiction when the father filed his suit in Mississippi, and (2) the child had a significant connection to Mississippi and substantial evidence was available there.

II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

A. Facts

Richard Keith Norris[2] and Briana Belisle[3] met in Fairbanks while Keith was stationed at Fort Wainwright. Briana had lived in Fairbanks since 2006; Keith was born and raised in Mississippi. The two became romantically involved and had a child, Grant,[4] who was born in July 2011 in Fairbanks.[5] Briana and Keith married immediately after Grant's birth, but they quickly began experiencing marital problems. The couple decided to move to Keith's hometown in Mississippi to " start a new life" and work on their marriage.

The military moved all of the couple's possessions to Mississippi in July 2012, including their only vehicle. Keith registered the vehicle upon arrival, and both parties filled out and submitted change-of-address forms. Briana testified that she only " left a few things" in Fairbanks, including her sneakers and a sewing machine. Both Briana and Keith opened bank accounts in Mississippi, and Briana applied for and received Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) assistance. The parties initially lived with Keith's parents and discussed buying a house. Keith's parents even took them to look at one. But the couple ultimately rented a house for at least a one-year term. Both parties signed the lease. Briana fully unpacked, painted the boys' room, and hung art on the walls. Keith began taking college classes during the day and working at night. Briana found a job working at a delicatessen, but she eventually quit. Briana and Keith found a doctor for the boys, and Grant and Miles saw the doctor a handful of times while in Mississippi.

In early September 2012 Keith moved out of the home and the parties began informally sharing custody of Grant. Briana testified that in September she told Keith that she and the boys were returning to Alaska permanently. She testified that Keith " was not happy about it" and " wanted to get something in writing before we had left." Keith testified that he did not agree to a permanent return. In late September Briana sent him a text message saying that she was taking Grant back to Alaska and was going to " take Keith for everything he was worth." ...


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