Ritter v. Ritter, No. 99-71.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
Writing for the CourtHILL, Justice.
Citation989 P.2d 109
Decision Date03 November 1999
Docket NumberNo. 99-71.
PartiesDebannette RITTER, Appellant (Defendant), v. Harold RITTER, Appellee (Plaintiff).

989 P.2d 109

Debannette RITTER, Appellant (Defendant),
v.
Harold RITTER, Appellee (Plaintiff)

No. 99-71.

Supreme Court of Wyoming.

November 3, 1999.


989 P.2d 110
Representing Appellant. Tina N. Hughes, Cheyenne, WY., Argument by Ms. Hughes

Representing Appellee. Harold Ritter, Pro Se, Union City, GA., Argument by Mr. Ritter.

Before LEHMAN, C.J., and THOMAS, MACY, GOLDEN, and HILL, JJ.

HILL, Justice.

Appellant Debannette Ritter (Mother) claims the district court erred in refusing to exercise jurisdiction over her motion to modify the custody awarded to Appellee Harold Ritter (Father). The district court determined it no longer maintained jurisdiction because both parents had left Wyoming. In the alternative, the district court found that if Wyoming's jurisdiction continued, it would decline to exercise jurisdiction because the Georgia courts were the most appropriate forum. We affirm the district court's discretionary determination to refuse to exercise the jurisdiction of the Wyoming courts.

ISSUES

Appellant (Mother) presents two issues for review.

1. Did the trial court abuse its discretion in dismissing Appellant's Motion to Change Custody?
2. Did the trial court abuse its discretion in dismissing Appellant's Motion to Show Cause and for Temporary Custody?

Appellee (Father) presents a single issue:

1. Did the trial court abuse its discretion in granting Appellee's Motion to Dismiss Change of Custody?

FACTS

The parties were divorced on August 11, 1995. Over Mother's objection, Father was awarded primary custody of their three children and relocated with the children to Georgia in 1996. On August 18, 1998, Mother filed a Motion To Change Custody, followed by a Motion to Show Cause and for Temporary Custody, filed September 2, 1998. Mother alleged that Father regularly interfered with Mother's visitation and that the children reported circumstances which generated serious concerns regarding their living

989 P.2d 111
conditions in Georgia. Mother also claimed Father failed to timely retrieve the children when the summer visitations ended, including the current visitation period. Upon being served with Mother's motion, Father immediately came to Wyoming and took the children back to Georgia. Father then responded with a Motion to Dismiss, claiming the children resided in Georgia, and therefore, jurisdiction over issues regarding the children rested with the Georgia courts

An evidentiary hearing on the various motions was held on October 28, 1998, before the Laramie County court commissioner. No transcript is available due to a malfunction in equipment. The summary of evidence and documents in the record, however, demonstrate that the children had lived in Georgia for two and one-half years, attended school in Georgia, and received medical care in that state. Evidence was also submitted showing the dismissal of a claim against Mother by Wyoming Child Support Enforcement due to the State's belief that Mother no longer lived in Wyoming.

On the other hand, Mother claimed that she had been, and continues to be, a resident of Wyoming. While she admitted temporarily living in Texas, Nebraska, and Georgia, Mother stated that she had continued to use her parents' address in Wyoming as her permanent residence, had never obtained a driver's license in another state, and had always considered herself a resident of Wyoming. She argued that jurisdiction in Wyoming was proper because there was no action pending in Georgia, the children's grandmother and mother were in Wyoming, and the children had spent the entire summer in Wyoming.

The district court granted Father's Motion to Dismiss, finding that the exclusive jurisdiction of the Wyoming court ended when all the parties and the children were no longer in Wyoming. The district court further held that even if the court maintained any subject matter jurisdiction, it would decline jurisdiction and defer to the jurisdiction of the Georgia courts. This timely appeal followed.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Whether or not a court has subject matter jurisdiction is a question of law to be reviewed de novo. Weller v. Weller, 960 P.2d 493, 494 (Wyo.1998). However, "[a] court which has jurisdiction under [the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act] to make an initial decree or a modification decree may decline to exercise its jurisdiction any time before making a decree if it finds that it is an inconvenient forum to make a custody determination under the circumstances of the case and that a court of another state is a more appropriate...

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10 practice notes
  • Director, Office of State Lands v. Merbanco, No. 01-261
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • June 6, 2003
    ...Matter Jurisdiction [¶ 7] Whether a court has subject matter jurisdiction is a question of law to be reviewed de novo. Ritter v. Ritter, 989 P.2d 109, 111 (Wyo.1999). Subject matter jurisdiction refers to "`the power to hear and determine cases of the general class to which the proceed......
  • Steele v. Neeman, No. 99-283.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • June 7, 2000
    ...of whether to exercise jurisdiction or to defer to the courts of another state is reviewed for an abuse of discretion. Ritter v. Ritter, 989 P.2d 109, 111 DISCUSSION Initially, we must address a contention raised by Father that Mother's appeal was not timely filed. Father insists that the A......
  • Harignordoquy v. Barlow, No. S–13–0076.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • December 10, 2013
    ...in child custody matters de novo. Prickett v. Prickett, 2007 WY 153, ¶ 9, 167 P.3d 661, 663 (Wyo.2007) (citing Ritter v. Ritter, 989 P.2d 109, 111 (Wyo.1999)); see alsoNC, ¶ 20, 294 P.3d at 872. In some cases, the identification of the home state under the UCCJEA requires the trial court to......
  • Pokrovskaya v. Van Genderen, S-20-0202
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • May 17, 2021
    ...v. Neeman , 6 P.3d 649, 653 (Wyo. 2000) ); Saunders v. Saunders , 2019 WY 82, ¶ 10, 445 P.3d 991, 996 (Wyo. 2019) ; Ritter v. Ritter , 989 P.2d 109, 111 (Wyo. 1999). Judicial discretion is sound judgment, based on objective criteria, and exercised with regard to what is right in the circums......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
10 cases
  • Director, Office of State Lands v. Merbanco, No. 01-261
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • June 6, 2003
    ...Matter Jurisdiction [¶ 7] Whether a court has subject matter jurisdiction is a question of law to be reviewed de novo. Ritter v. Ritter, 989 P.2d 109, 111 (Wyo.1999). Subject matter jurisdiction refers to "`the power to hear and determine cases of the general class to which the proceed......
  • Steele v. Neeman, No. 99-283.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • June 7, 2000
    ...of whether to exercise jurisdiction or to defer to the courts of another state is reviewed for an abuse of discretion. Ritter v. Ritter, 989 P.2d 109, 111 DISCUSSION Initially, we must address a contention raised by Father that Mother's appeal was not timely filed. Father insists that the A......
  • Harignordoquy v. Barlow, No. S–13–0076.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • December 10, 2013
    ...in child custody matters de novo. Prickett v. Prickett, 2007 WY 153, ¶ 9, 167 P.3d 661, 663 (Wyo.2007) (citing Ritter v. Ritter, 989 P.2d 109, 111 (Wyo.1999)); see alsoNC, ¶ 20, 294 P.3d at 872. In some cases, the identification of the home state under the UCCJEA requires the trial court to......
  • Pokrovskaya v. Van Genderen, S-20-0202
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • May 17, 2021
    ...v. Neeman , 6 P.3d 649, 653 (Wyo. 2000) ); Saunders v. Saunders , 2019 WY 82, ¶ 10, 445 P.3d 991, 996 (Wyo. 2019) ; Ritter v. Ritter , 989 P.2d 109, 111 (Wyo. 1999). Judicial discretion is sound judgment, based on objective criteria, and exercised with regard to what is right in the circums......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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