AARON E. ROMMERS, APPELLANT,
ELIZABETH S. ROMMERS, APPELLEE
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
Appeal from the District Court for Holt County: MARK D. KOZISEK, Judge.
Joel E. Carlson, of Stratton, DeLay, Doele, Carlson & Buettner, P.C., L.L.O., for appellant.
Lori McClain Lee, of Legal Aid of Nebraska, for appellee.
INBODY, RIEDMANN, and BISHOP, Judges.
[22 Neb.App. 608] Inbody, Judge.
Aaron E. Rommers appeals the order of the Holt County District Court dissolving his marriage to Elizabeth S. Rommers and awarding her custody of the parties' minor child in Arizona. For the reasons that follow, we affirm in part, and in part reverse and remand the matter back to the district court for further proceedings.
STATEMENT OF FACTS
Aaron and Elizabeth were married in February 2010. Of that marriage, one minor child, Samantha Rommers, was born in June 2012. On January 2, 2013, Aaron filed a complaint for dissolution asserting that the marriage between himself and Elizabeth was over and that both parties were fit and proper to have custody of Samantha. The complaint further asserted that Elizabeth and Samantha had been living in Arizona since December 4, 2012. The complaint requested that the court dissolve the parties' marriage, divide the property and debts, and award the parties joint physical and legal custody of Samantha.
Elizabeth filed an answer and counterclaim alleging that an ongoing custody case had been filed on December 7, 2012, in the Superior Court of Pinal County, Arizona, in which Elizabeth had been granted temporary emergency custody of Samantha. Elizabeth's counterclaim requested that the court [22 Neb.App. 609] dissolve the parties' marriage, divide the property and debts, and award Elizabeth custody and child support. The proceedings initiated in Arizona were later dismissed, and all further proceedings were held in Nebraska.
At trial in December 2013, various family members for both parties testified. Aaron testified that he married Elizabeth in 2010 and that he, Elizabeth, and Samantha lived in the same home where he still resides in Ewing, Nebraska. Aaron testified that he has lived in Ewing his entire life and that he has a large family which also lives in the area. Aaron testified that he had family and community support and wanted to have Samantha in his life.
Aaron testified that during the marriage, he shared parental responsibilities with Elizabeth and would help out whenever he could with both Samantha and household duties such as cooking and cleaning. Aaron was employed full time and has continued to maintain that employment throughout the proceedings, earning $17.84 per hour.
Aaron testified that Elizabeth left the family home with Samantha on December 3, 2012. Aaron explained that Elizabeth did not return any of his text messages that day and that when he arrived home from work, she and Samantha were gone. Aaron learned that Elizabeth was in Arizona when he saw that she had used a debit card from his checking account in that area. Sometime thereafter, Aaron spoke with Elizabeth, who indicated that she and Samantha would not be returning to Nebraska. Aaron testified that the distance from his home to where Elizabeth and Samantha reside in Arizona is 1,400 miles one way. Aaron testified that he attempted to make arrangements with Elizabeth to see Samantha, but that Elizabeth refused until June 2013, when she gave him permission to make a trip to Arizona before Samantha's first birthday. On June 17, Aaron made the 24-hour car trip to Arizona, where he spent four nights. Elizabeth did not allow Aaron to see Samantha on the first day he was in Arizona, but did allow about 3 hours per day thereafter, broken into two times per day. Aaron testified that either Elizabeth, her brother, or her sister-in-law was present at all of the visits. Aaron testified that the total expenses for the trip equated to $1,200 and [22 Neb.App. 610] that making that trip again would be very financially difficult for him. Aaron testified that he has not made any further trips to Arizona, but had recently begun to have " Skype visit[s]" with Samantha over the Internet.
Aaron testified that initially, when Elizabeth left him, he attempted to support her by putting money in his checking account for her to access, but was unable to continually
provide that type of support because he had been sued on several debts and had his wages garnished.
Aaron testified that he believed Elizabeth left him because she was upset by a picture and e-mail he received of another woman, but that he did not have any Internet communications with other women. Aaron testified that he had been frustrated at times when Samantha was an infant because she was colicky and it was difficult for both him and Elizabeth to soothe Samantha, but that he had not lost his patience with her. He refuted Elizabeth's accusations that he had lashed out against property in moments of frustration.
Aaron's aunt testified that she had observed Aaron with Samantha in the months after her birth and that he positively interacted with Samantha and was a proud father. Aaron's ...