Gray v. Gray, 49666

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Idaho
Writing for the CourtMOELLER, Justice.
PartiesCARLA ANN GRAY, Petitioner-Appellant, v. BRYAN DAVID GRAY, Respondent.
Docket Number49666
Decision Date18 October 2022

CARLA ANN GRAY, Petitioner-Appellant,


No. 49666

Supreme Court of Idaho

October 18, 2022

Appeal from the Magistrate Court of the Seventh Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Bonneville County. Wiley R. Dennert, Magistrate Judge.

The decision of the magistrate court is affirmed.

Parsons Behle & Latimer, Idaho Falls, for Appellant. John E. Cutler argued.

Roy, Nielson, Platts & McGee, Twin Falls, for Respondent. Eric Nielson argued.

MOELLER, Justice.

This appeal concerns a divorced parent's decision to unilaterally relocate her child across international borders without (1) prior notice to the other parent or (2) leave of the court. Carla Gray appeals the magistrate court's order that modified the existing custodial arrangement and required her to return the child to the United States. For the reasons stated below, we affirm the magistrate court's modified judgment.


The factual and procedural background will be grouped into four distinct time periods: Bryan and Carla's personal history and marriage, their divorce, Carla's relocation of the parties' child to Costa Rica, and the subsequent petition for modification.

A. Bryan and Carla: The Early Years

After receiving an honorable discharge from the U.S. Navy following six years of active duty in 2006, Bryan Gray obtained full-time employment at the Morro Bay Power Plant in California. While there, Bryan met Carla in the fall of 2008. Carla had recently graduated with a degree in genetics and was working as a laboratory technician at Allan Hancock College in Santa


Maria, California. After they began dating, Bryan was accepted to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York and, in December 2008, moved to New York "intently focused on his dream to get his Bachelor's Degree . . . ." Carla stayed in California. While in New York, Bryan encountered difficulty: secure housing was hard to come by and tuition that was higher than expected. He dropped out of Rensselaer after six weeks. In the spring 2009, Bryan moved back to California and into Carla's apartment. Bryan resumed work at the Morro Bay Power Plant. While there, Bryan completed his bachelor's degree in nuclear engineering technology at Thomas Edison State University in May 2010.

After graduation, "Bryan then set his sights on relaunching his career in the nuclear power industry." In September 2011, after learning the power plant where he was working would be closing, Bryan obtained employment at the Idaho National Laboratory's ("INL") Advanced Test Reactor in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Bryan took a significant pay cut to work at the Idaho National Lab. However, the INL offered to pay for a master's program in engineering for Bryan as a bonus. Bryan was accepted to Idaho State University's ("ISU") engineering program. While Bryan lived in Idaho Falls, Carla remained in California to complete her fifth year of employment at Hancock College, which was a "significant milestone" for her eligibility in the California Public Employees' Retirement System. Carla moved to Idaho Falls to be with Bryan in the summer 2012.

Bryan and Carla were married in December 2012 and purchased a home in Idaho Falls. Soon, Bryan became dissatisfied with his work at the INL but did not inform Carla. Bryan attempted to transfer within the INL but was told he would have to wait six months. Bryan quit his job in September 2014 after three years of employment. In December 2014, while still at ISU, Bryan changed his graduate programming and began taking prerequisite courses to become a physician's assistant ("PA"). Bryan excelled in his new studies-so much so that several professors encouraged him to enroll in medical school rather than PA school. By early 2016, Bryan decided to enroll in medical school. He began taking the prerequisite courses and started studying for the Medical College Admission Test ("MCAT").

In September 2016, Bryan and Carla's son, J.L.G., was born. Due to Bryan's study schedule, Bryan's interaction with J.L.G. was limited. Bryan adhered to a structured daily schedule-planning out every meal, break, and activity to maximize his study time. Bryan even sealed off the windows and doors to the basement to soundproof the basement and further maximize his study time. Carla, on the other hand, "did nearly all of the daycare for [J.L.G.]."


Further, Carla moved into her son's room within a month after J.L.G. was born. Shortly after Carla's move into their son's room, Bryan moved to the basement. During the first two years of J.L.G.'s life, Bryan's involvement was minimal. However, the magistrate court found that "[a] large part of why Bryan was not involved in parenting [J.L.G.] is because Carla would not let him." By the fall of 2017, the marriage began to fall apart and the couple began marriage counseling.

Bryan took the MCAT in 2018 and started to consider where to apply to medical school and how to pay for it. Bryan determined that he had two options to pay for medical school since he could not afford it himself: either have the state of Wyoming or the U.S. Navy pay for medical school. Both avenues covered the cost of tuition but also required a four-year commitment after medical school. However, the program in Laramie, Wyoming was only open to residents of Wyoming. Bryan wanted to move to Wyoming to establish residency to be eligible for Wyoming's program. As an added benefit, Bryan's parents lived within 45 minutes of Laramie and could provide a great deal of support to Bryan, Carla, and J.L.G. while he was in medical school.

Despite the financial benefits of moving to Wyoming if Bryan was accepted to the state program, Carla was not willing to move there. For Carla, "[t]here was too much uncertainty." For example, there were financial concerns: after living on their savings since Bryan quit his job, the home in Idaho Falls was the only asset that the couple had left. "Carla was not prepared to move under those circumstances." Bryan hoped Carla would change her mind but testified "he was moving to Wyoming one way or another . . . ." If Carla would not move with Bryan to Wyoming, then Bryan intended to file for divorce. Carla testified that she "did not want to move to Wyoming[,] and she decided she wanted a divorce too."

B. The Divorce

The couple then began the process of initiating divorce proceedings. Bryan initially drafted many of the terms for the divorce. At the time, he was willing to give Carla "sole legal custody" of J.L.G., but the magistrate court found that Bryan "did not fully understand what that meant." Bryan made estimates of how much free time he would have with his expected medical school schedule and possible military commitments, if he could not get into Wyoming's program. Since Bryan would get 30 days of leave per year from the military, he proposed a visitation schedule that included at least four weeks of visitation.

Bryan gave his drafted terms to Carla. He told Carla "to acquire the necessary paperwork to file a joint petition or that he would go out and hire his own attorney[,] which would make the


process much more unpleasant." Carla took Bryan's terms to her attorney who drafted the divorce paperwork and "included most of Bryan's terms." A joint petition for divorce and divorce settlement agreement were signed in July 2018. The judgment of divorce was entered on July 26, 2018. The relevant portions of the judgment, as it relates to the custody of J.L.G., provided the following:

4.Carla has sole legal and physical custody of the child subject to Bryan's visitation which will, at a minimum, consist of up to four weeks of parenting time each calendar year, exercised in increments of not less than one week and not more than ten days per visit, depending on his medical, residency and military schedule, subject to the following:
a. From the present time until age three, Bryan can see the minor from 7:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on each day available.
b. From age three to age four, Bryan can see the minor from 7:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on each day available and have up to two overnights per week.
c . From age four to age five, Bryan can see the minor from 7:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on each day available and have up to four overnights per week.
d. From age five to age six, Bryan can have the minor child for an entire week, including overnights, with no restriction to where the visitation takes place. There needs to be at least two weeks separation between each block of time when Bryan has the minor child.
e. From age six to age seven, Bryan can have the minor child for two weeks of visitation, including overnights, with no restriction to where the visitation takes place. There needs to be at least two weeks separation between each block of time when Bryan has the minor child.
f. After the child reaches the age of eight, Bryan's visitation can be exercised in whatever blocks that he desires, with due consideration to the child's school and other circumstances.
g. Bryan is to give at least seven days advance notice before exercising any parenting time.
5. The following persons have rights of reasonable visitation with the minor child:
a. Lewis Bryan Gray, paternal grandfather.
b. Peggy Jean Gray, paternal grandmother.
c. David Hayward, paternal great grandfather.
d. Kevin Douglass Gray, paternal uncle.
e. Lee Neidengard, maternal grandfather.
f. Patricia Neidengard, maternal grandmother.
6. Both parties are entitled to reasonable telephonic of Skype type calls between the child and the parent not having the child. Both parties will use their best efforts to facilitate this contact. At a minimum, each party has up to one hour each week with priority being given for special event (e.g., Mother's Day, Father's Day, birthdays, and holidays).
7.. . .

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