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Clinton M. v. Paula M.

Court of Appeals of Nebraska

April 1, 2014


Page 815

Appeal from the District Court for Sarpy County: MAX KELCH, Judge.

Justin A. Quinn and Casey J. Quinn for appellant.

Gerald D. Johnson and Maxwell Crawford, Senior Certified Law Student, of Johnson & Pekny, L.L.C., for appellee.

INBODY, Chief Judge, and MOORE and RIEDMANN, Judges.


Page 816

[21 Neb.App. 857] Inbody, Chief Judge.


Paula M. appeals the decision of the Sarpy County District Court denying her request to modify the parties' dissolution decree to grant her sole legal and physical custody of the parties' minor child and denying her request to remove the child from Nebraska to California.


Clinton M. and Paula were married on March 21, 1998. They had one child, Alexis M., who was born earlier that year in February. The parties' marriage was dissolved by a decree entered on August 8, 2002, by the 26th Judicial District Court, Bossier Parish, Louisiana. The decree

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granted the parties joint legal and physical custody of Alexis. The decree was modified in December 2006 by the Circuit Court of Pulaski County, Arkansas, to award sole custody of Alexis to Clinton, with Paula's visitation restricted to Arkansas. Another modification occurred in July 2008, wherein the Arkansas court granted Paula specific parenting time with Alexis.

On April 2, 2009, Clinton filed a complaint to register these foreign judgments in the Sarpy County District Court. He contemporaneously filed a complaint to modify the parties' dissolution decree, requesting that Paula's parenting time be restricted to the State of Nebraska and that Paula be ordered to provide support in accordance with the Nebraska Child Support Guidelines. Paula filed a countercomplaint to modify, requesting sole legal and physical custody of Alexis and requesting that she be allowed to remove Alexis from Nebraska to California, where Paula resides. Trial on both Clinton's complaint and Paula's countercomplaint was held on August 30, 2012. The parties stipulated prior to the start of trial that due to the significant travel involved with parenting time, regardless of who had custody of Alexis, a deviation from the child support guidelines down to a support amount of zero was appropriate.

The evidence at trial established that Alexis suffers from serious mental health issues. Due to these issues, in January 2008, Clinton, a member of the U.S. Air Force, was reassigned [21 Neb.App. 858] to Nebraska from Germany because Alexis' mental health providers at the Air Force base did not feel that they could properly care for her there. The record reflects that Alexis, now 16 years old, has been diagnosed with bipolar mood disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, reactive attachment disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, and cerebral dysrhythmia, which is abnormal electrical activity in the brain which could contribute to a mood disorder and anger outbursts. Alexis has also suffered from depression, explosive anger outbursts, and a mood disorder.

Alexis' conditions have required professional assistance, which she has received from various providers, including Dr. Jamie Ryder, a psychologist who provided individual therapy every other week for Alexis from September 2009 until June 2012; Bridgette Maas, who provided weekly family therapy from December 2010 until January 2012; and Amy Jackson, Alexis' primary therapist from April 13 through July 11, 2012. Each of these providers testified at trial.

As a result of her mental health issues, Alexis has exhibited symptoms of racing thoughts, mood swings, and low motivation, and she has major difficulties with impulse control and emotional regulation. Her behaviors have included lying, manipulation, refusing to follow rules, hoarding food, stealing, wetting and defecating herself, destroying property, making self-harm statements, and exhibiting aggressive behavior toward others, including Clinton's wife and Alexis' younger half sister, and generally displaying out-of-control, noncompliant, and defiant behaviors. Clinton testified that throughout the majority of her life, Alexis' behaviors have been " up and down" ; she has some " good" days, while on other days, she is angry, disobedient, and difficult to manage.

Alexis' behaviors reached a critical point in the spring of 2011, when the following event occurred: Alexis and Clinton's wife were arguing when Alexis allegedly pushed her down a flight of stairs, rendering her unconscious, and then Alexis proceeded to leave the home without notifying anyone of Clinton's wife's condition. This

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event resulted in Alexis' being admitted into an acute treatment facility and the recommendation that Alexis receive treatment at a residential [21 Neb.App. 859] facility due to her increasing violent tendencies. Pursuant to this recommendation, in mid-March, Alexis began residential treatment at a children's treatment center in Kansas City, Missouri, which provides intensive inpatient behavioral treatment. Alexis was discharged from the treatment center in September 2011.

After being discharged from the treatment center, Alexis did very well, initially: She went back to school and started running in cross-country and swimming. However, Alexis then became depressed and started getting angry, isolating herself, not listening, and having problems at school. In October 2011, after a disagreement with Clinton and his wife, Alexis went into her room, cut her hair with a box cutter, and crawled onto the roof of the home, with the end result of police searching for her. ...

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