Appeal from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Third Judicial District, Anchorage, Gregory Miller, Judge. Superior Court No. 3AN-13-06985 CI.
Laurence Blakely, Mendel & Associates, Inc., Anchorage, for Appellant.
Notice of nonparticipation filed by Cameron Compton, Law Offices of Dan Allan & Associates, Anchorage, for Appellee.
Before: Fabe, Chief Justice, Winfree, Stowers, Maassen, and Bolger, Justices.
FABE, Chief Justice.
Brandy and Jeremy Moore have one child, a ten-year-old daughter. When Brandy and Jeremy divorced in 2014, the superior court granted sole legal and primary physical custody of the child to Brandy and awarded Jeremy unrestricted visitation, including visitation to foreign countries. Jeremy proposed taking the child to Micronesia during his visitation period because he is now in a relationship with a Micronesian woman he met while he was stationed there with the Army. Brandy asked the superior court to limit Jeremy's international visitation to countries that have ratified the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The superior court denied Brandy's motion, and she now appeals, arguing that the superior court abused its discretion by allowing unrestricted international visitation. She worries that if Jeremy absconds with the child to a non-signatory country, the child will then be beyond the jurisdiction of the Alaska court to enforce the custody order. But because the superior court made an express finding that Jeremy's conduct raised no concerns about the safety and return of the child, we affirm. Although the Hague Convention is one factor that
courts can look to in determining whether international visitation is appropriate when there are concerns about the safety and return of a child, it is simply one factor among many and is not dispositive.
II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS
Brandy and Jeremy married in 2003 and have one daughter, born in 2004. Jeremy was in the military while the parties were married and was deployed to Iraq in 2004, Afghanistan in 2007-08, and Micronesia in 2012-13. In 2014 Jeremy was told that he was being involuntarily separated from the Army following an investigation in which the Army found Jeremy guilty of having an inappropriate relationship in Micronesia with a woman who was not his wife.
The parties separated in May 2013 and divorced in July 2014. Brandy alleges that since their separation, Jeremy has exercised only limited visitation with the child. She reports that he had seven visits with the child from the time of the parties' separation until their divorce trial over a year later, only three of which were overnight. She alleged at trial that in the past Jeremy has gone up to two months without requesting visitation. Brandy has been the primary caregiver since their daughter was born.
A trial was held in part to determine Jeremy's visitation rights. The parties agreed that Brandy would have sole legal custody and primary physical custody, and that Jeremy would have reasonable visitation including part of summer break. Brandy requested a graduated summer visitation schedule, with Jeremy progressing to have visitation for most of the child's summer break by 2016. Jeremy requested that during his custodial time with the child he have " the option to take the child out of the country," in particular to Micronesia.
Brandy testified that she did not want the child to travel to Micronesia with Jeremy because she thought she would have no legal recourse if Jeremy attempted to keep their child there, citing the fact that Micronesia is not a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (Hague Convention). The Hague Convention is a multilateral treaty that " provides for a civil remedy to return a child to his or her 'habitual residence' after unlawful abduction or wrongful retention in a foreign nation."  Brandy testified that she was hesitant to let their daughter travel abroad with Jeremy but that she would permit the child to visit foreign countries that had ratified the Hague Convention. Brandy asserted that legal protection under the Hague Convention was necessary because Jeremy had a demonstrated disregard for the law based on his Army infractions.
Jeremy countered that Brandy's claims regarding the Hague Convention were pretext for the fact that she did not want him to take their daughter out of the country because she was resentful of his relationship with a Micronesian woman. He argued that Brandy " impermissibly influenced" the child by convincing her that he left because he " chose [the woman] over the child." Jeremy also asserted that Brandy was harassing him and refusing to facilitate and encourage his relationship with the child, and that Brandy's " behavior and mental state have deteriorated." He alleged that Brandy was stalking him by driving by his residence and forcing her way into his house; contacting his Army chain of command and making false claims against him; and yelling, threatening, and throwing items at Jeremy in front of the child. Jeremy argued that ...