Circuit Court, DR-19-900329
Nicholas A. Jones of Jones, Hawkins & Associates,
Montgomery, for petitioner.
M. Blevins, Montgomery, for respondent.
Marie Butcher ("the mother") petitions this court
for a writ of mandamus directing the Montgomery Circuit Court
("the trial court") to grant her motion to dismiss
the divorce action filed by Jeremy
Allan Butcher ("the father") on the ground that the
trial court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction. One child
("the child") was born of the parties'
marriage, and, the mother contends, Alabama is not the
child's home state. As a result, the mother asserts, the
trial court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction under
Alabama's version of the Uniform Child Custody
Jurisdiction Enforcement Act ("the UCCJEA"), §
30-3B-101 et seq., Ala. Code 1975.
materials before this court indicate the following. On July
29, 2019, the trial court held a hearing on the issue of
subject-matter jurisdiction. A transcript of that hearing is
included in the materials the mother submitted in support of
her petition for a writ of mandamus. The evidence adduced at
that hearing indicates that the father serves in the United
States Air Force. On February 11, 2015, the parties married
in Montgomery. The father was stationed at Gunter Air Force
Base in Montgomery and had lived in Alabama for about a year
at that time. The mother is originally from South Carolina,
but she had moved to Alabama, where she worked as a
registered nurse at a Montgomery hospital. On February 14,
2017, the child was born in Montgomery.
family continued to live in the Montgomery area until
September 29, 2018, when the mother and the child moved to
Findlay, Ohio. At that time, the father was preparing to
deploy to Djibouti, in Africa, for six months. The
father's parents lived in Findlay, Ohio. The mother
testified that the purpose of the move was for her to be
close to the father's family during his deployment so
that she would have a "support system" nearby and
to "build a foundation for a future in Ohio." She
said that the father's term of enlistment was to be over
in September 2019 and that he was going to separate from the
Air Force. The mother testified that the father was then
going to move to Ohio.
July 29, 2019, hearing, the father disputed much of the
mother's testimony. He testified that, although his
enlistment was set to end in September 2019, he was
"working through paperwork" to reenlist and that he
did not intend to leave the Air Force. Upon reenlistment, the
father said, he would continue to be stationed at Gunter Air
Force Base. He explained that, as a computer-software
developer, he was not required to move often. The father also
said that he had made Alabama his permanent state of
residence approximately five years earlier.
father testified that the mother made the decision to live
near his parents in Ohio during his deployment rather than
returning to South Carolina, where her parents lived. He said
his parents were going to have "some surgeries and
stuff" and that the mother had wanted to "help out
with them." He said that, initially, the mother and the
child were going to live in Ohio just during his deployment.
When he returned from Djibouti, the father testified, the
family planned to resume living in Alabama. In January 2019,
about three months into his deployment, the mother "was
pretty certain she was going to stay" in Ohio, the
father said. It was at that time that the parties began
discussing obtaining a divorce.
in Ohio, the father said, the child was staying with his
parents. He said that he "video chatted" with the
child almost every day and that, during those chats, she was
at the father's parents' house. Also, the father said
that he had accumulated "numerous" medical bills
for the child resulting from his parents' having taken
her to doctors' appointments for checkups and illness.
The bills were addressed to the father at his parents'
mother testified that, when the father returned from Djibouti
in April, he came to Ohio and visited the child for
approximately two weeks. He then returned to Alabama. The
mother said that, on Tuesday, May 15, 2019, the father
returned to Ohio, picked up the child at his parents'
house, and returned to Alabama with the child without the
mother's knowledge or consent. The father agreed with the
mother's testimony on that point. He also testified that
all of the child's clothing and toys were at ...