Before Sullivan, P.j., Banks And Mills, JJ.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mills, Justice
DATE OF JUDGMENT: 08/23/96
TRIAL JUDGE: HON. PAT H. WATTS, JR.
COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: JACKSON COUNTY CHANCERY COURT
NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - CUSTODY
DISPOSITION REVERSED AND REMANDED
¶1. Joel and Barbara Hasse received a final judgment of divorce in the chancery court of Jackson County on February 7, 1995. Their child custody and visitation agreement reads in part as follows: Husband and Wife agree that both parties are fit and proper persons and shall have joint care, custody and control of the two (2) aforesaid minor children of the parties, Mason Daniel Hasse and Stephanie Anne Hasse. Husband and Wife are on active duty in the United States Navy. Accordingly, custody of the minor children shall be arranged as follows: The parent having orders to shore duty will have paramount custody and control during the period of said orders. The parent having sea duty orders will be allowed to exercise reasonable visitation with the children at his or her own expense, as and when practical, upon twenty-four (24) hours notice.
¶2. At the time of divorce, Barbara had shore duty orders and Joel had sea duty orders. Accordingly, Barbara retained custody of Mason and Stephanie, ages six and two years old respectively. Barbara thereafter separated herself from the Navy in August 1995 and moved to Maryland. The children joined her in October, 1995 after she obtained an apartment. Mason was enrolled in the Maryland school system shortly after moving to Maryland.
¶3. Joel returned with shore leave to Mississippi in April, 1996. Barbara refused, however, to relinquish custody of the children. In response, he filed a complaint for contempt, modification or other relief on April 16, 1996. Barbara responded to Joel's complaint by filing a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction on May 10, 1996.
¶4. Subsequent to filing her motion, Barbara voluntarily relinquished custody of the children to Joel and began paying child support. While in Joel's custody, the children resided at their home of several years prior to the divorce, were enrolled in St. Martin Elementary School in Ocean Springs, and began to receive medical treatment at Keesler Air Force Base.
¶5. On August 22, 1996, the chancellor found that it would not be in the best interest of the children to exercise jurisdiction in Mississippi, and granted Barbara's motion to dismiss. The chancellor then ordered Joel, who was on shore duty, to return the children to Barbara until final order from the Maryland courts. As of the date of this appeal, the children remain in Barbara's custody. Neither party has commenced legal proceedings in Maryland.
I. WHETHER THE CHANCELLOR COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR IN GRANTING ...