Just when you think a child custody issue is resolved, something happens.
As usual, two people fell in love, married, and had a beautiful child in 2006. But three years later the parents filed for divorce.
Although the parents lived in Wyoming, California was the child's home state at the time of the divorce. Therefore, the custody issues were litigated in California.
During Custody Battle Mother Takes Child to Norway
Before the court had an opportunity to make a determination of child custody, the mother decided to take her child outside of United States to her native Norway. She did not seek the father's consent before making the trip.
It wasn't the mother's best decision.
Father Pursues Case Under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Production
Under this scenario, the father's only recourse was to proceed under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Production. The process sounds complicated, right?
Despite the complications, the father was successful in having his child returned to the United States. Then the family returned to California to settle the child custody issue. Needless to say, the mother's action did not help her custody battle.
A number of hearings ensued on issues of custody, visitation, and child support.
In fact, a California court ordered that the father have sole legal and physical custody of his child. The court also noted that the parties stipulated "this is a final and permanent termination of custody."
Court Establishes Visitation Schedule for Mother
The court also granted visitation rights to the mother on alternating weekends. Provided the visitation went well, the mother would also have visitation rights on every Wednesday evening for two hours. A holiday visitation schedule was also established.
Furthermore, the mother could no longer remove the child out of the state without the consent of the father.
Although the California order was considered "final and permanent," the order did note either party could request changes to the visitation schedule..
The father returned with the daughter to Wyoming where coincidentally the mother planned to relocate as well. The father also married another woman and adopted her son.
Once the mother moved to Wyoming, she began her supervised visitation schedule with monitoring from Court Assigned Special Advocates (CASA). Unfortunately, at some point CASA was unable to continue monitoring the weekend visits, so the mother began to transition to unsupervised visitation with the daughter.
CASA Monitoring Ends - Parents' Fighting Intensifies
That's when the fighting between the parents began.
Court papers note that the visitation exchanges were often contentious and on numerous occasions the parties called law enforcement to resolve their disputes. As such, the daughter became anxious about her visitations and began to refuse the visits with her mother.
Perhaps tired of the situation, the mother filed a request to modify the California order. She believed that there had been "material changes in circumstances" the modification of the custody, child support, and visitation provisions.
Naturally, the father struck back and requested that he no longer have to pay child support to the mother and instead the mother should pay him child support.
Counseling Improves Child's Home Situation
A full one year later, the child began to see a counselor who then give the parents a list of rules for how they could relate to each other and the daughter. The rules were sensible:
- There would be no audio or video recording of the child.
- The father was no longer allowed to threaten the mother or to accuse her of trespassing.
- The parents could no longer discipline a child with cold showers or hot sauce.
- The stepmother would no longer be allowed to discipline a child unless the parents were present.
- The parents could no longer quiz the child, ostensibly about the other parent.
- The parents could no longer denigrate the other parent in the presence of the daughter.
- The father and stepmother could no longer refer to the mother as mentally ill.
The counseling did improve the child's anxiety about her visits with her mother so much that by the time the trial rolled around in November 2013, the mother/daughter relationship had improved.
There was a two-day trial, and neither parent was happy with the decisions. The court did remand the case to a district court, which terminated father's child support obligation and ordered the mother to pay the father $50 per month in child support.
Mother Loses Child Custody Case
The case then went to the Supreme Court of the State of Wyoming. The justices decided that the District Court erred by failing to give "full faith and credit to the terms of the California order," which did allow for a change in the terms of visitation when it was in the child's best interests.
The Supreme Court also concluded that there was no material change in circumstances to justify a change in custody. Therefore, the mother did not win her child custody case.