Johnson v. Wilson, 022019 AKSC, S-16971

Docket Nº:S-16971
Party Name:MICHAEL JOHNSON, Appellant, v. MANDY WILSON, Appellee.
Attorney:Darryl L. Jones, Anchorage, for Appellant. Whitney-Marie K. Bostick, Law Office of Carl D. Cook, P.C., Anchorage, for Appellee.
Judge Panel:Before: Bolger, Chief Justice, Winfree, Stowers, Maassen, and Carney, Justices.
Case Date:February 20, 2019
Court:Supreme Court of Alaska
 
FREE EXCERPT

MICHAEL JOHNSON, Appellant,

v.

MANDY WILSON, Appellee.

No. S-16971

Supreme Court of Alaska

February 20, 2019

UNPUBLISHED See Alaska Appellate Rule 214(d)

Appeal from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Third Judicial District, Anchorage, Superior Court No. 3AN-17-06166 CI Dani Crosby, Judge.

Darryl L. Jones, Anchorage, for Appellant.

Whitney-Marie K. Bostick, Law Office of Carl D. Cook, P.C., Anchorage, for Appellee.

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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND JUDGMENT

[*]

I. INTRODUCTION

A mother filed a complaint seeking primary physical custody of her young child and declaring her intent to move to Idaho, home of her extended family. The child's father sought shared physical custody, alleging that the mother was moving only to make it more difficult for him to spend time with the child. Following an evidentiary hearing, the superior court determined that the mother's reasons for moving were legitimate and that the best interests analysis favored awarding primary physical custody to her.

The father appeals. We conclude that the superior court did not clearly err in its findings about the mother's motives or abuse its discretion in the way it conducted its analysis, and we therefore affirm the court's order.

II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

Mandy Wilson and Michael Johnson have a son, born in November 2016. Wilson is from Idaho, where her parents and much of her extended family still live. While she and Johnson were together they discussed eventually moving to Idaho, but they put off acting on these plans until Johnson vested in his retirement, then two years away. They separated in April 2017.

Wilson filed a complaint in superior court, announcing her intent to move to Idaho shortly and seeking sole legal and primary physical custody of the child. Johnson counterclaimed for joint legal and shared physical custody. Trial was held over three days in late 2017.

The superior court found Wilson's desire to move legitimate, citing her family ties in Idaho, her long-expressed desire to return there, and the parties' plans to move there eventually as a couple. Turning to the best interests factors, 1 the court found that most of them did not tilt strongly one way or the other but that Wilson was better able to meet the child's needs, both here and in Idaho, and had a more stable home environment. The court found that overall the factors favored an award of primary physical custody to Wilson but that the parties were "capable of communicating effectively such that legal custody should be joint."

Johnson appeals this custody order.

III.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

The superior court has broad discretion in child custody matters.2 We will reverse its factual findings only upon a showing of clear error, that is, when our review leaves us with "a definite and firm conviction" that a mistake has been made.3 We will reverse a custody decision only when there is an abuse of discretion-that is, when the superior court has "considered improper factors in making its custody determination, failed to consider...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP