Ex parte Paul W. Dumas
Laura Walters Wood In re: Ruth Howell Walters
Circuit Court, DR-15-900805
PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS
Dumas, the father of S.K.D. and K.W.D. ("the
children"), petitions this court for a writ of mandamus
directing the Montgomery Circuit Court ("the trial
court") to vacate its order awarding custody of the
children to their maternal grandmother, Ruth Howell Walters
("the maternal grandmother"). The father also
requests this court to direct the trial court to transfer the
action to the Lowndes Circuit Court. We dismiss the petition
in part and deny it in part.
and Procedural History
exhibits attached to the petition and the answer filed by the
maternal grandmother reveal the following. On February 6,
2015, the father and Laura Walters Wood ("the
mother") entered into a settlement agreement in a
divorce action in the Lowndes Circuit Court. The mother and
the father agreed that they would have joint legal custody of
the children, that the mother would have "primary"
physical custody of the children,  and that the father would
September 22, 2015, the maternal grandmother filed a petition
in the trial court, seeking grandparent visitation with the
children. On November 13, 2015, the trial court dismissed the
maternal grandmother's petition. On December 10, 2015,
the maternal grandmother filed a motion to vacate the trial
court's order of dismissal and sought to amend her
petition to request custody of the children.
August 22, 2016, the mother filed an answer to the maternal
grandmother's petition and a motion to dismiss the
petition. After the maternal grandmother filed a response to
the mother's filing, the mother filed a subsequent
response on September 12, 2016, requesting the dismissal of
the action or to transfer the action to the Lowndes Circuit
Court; she also attached an affidavit of the father in
support of her response.
hearing, at which only the maternal grandmother and her
attorney were present, the trial court entered an order on
September 25, 2017, awarding custody of the children to the
September 26, 2017, the mother filed a motion to set aside
the order. On September 28, 2017, the father, who apparently
had not been made a party to the action or served, filed an
expedited motion to set aside the award of custody and to
dismiss the case; he also requested that the action be
transferred to the Lowndes Circuit Court and that he be
awarded temporary custody of the children. He alleged that he
had not been given notice of the action.
September 28, 2017, the father filed in the Lowndes Circuit
Court a petition to modify the parties' divorce judgment,
a motion for pendente lite custody of the children, and a
motion for suspension of his child-support obligation
October 3, 2017, the father filed in the trial court, among
other things, a motion for an emergency hearing and a motion
for the immediate return of the children to him.
November 6, 2017, the trial court entered an order stating
that a hearing on the mother's motion to set aside the
September 25, 2017, order had been held on November 2, 2017,
at which the father, the mother, the maternal grandmother,
and their attorneys, among others, had been
present. The trial court ordered that it would
retain jurisdiction of the action and that pendente lite
custody of the children would remain with the maternal
grandmother pending a final hearing.
father filed his mandamus petition with this court on
November 10, 2017.