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In re Marriage of Susser

Court of Appeals of Arizona, First Division, Department B

October 3, 2013

In re the Marriage of: FREDRIC J. SUSSER, Petitioner/Appellee,
v.
PAULA M. THOMAS, Respondent/Appellant.

Not for Publication -Rule 28, Arizona Rules of Civil Appellate Procedure

Appeal from the Superior Court in Maricopa County Cause No. FC2009-006060 The Honorable David J. Palmer, Judge

The Baker Law Firm, L.L.C. Phoenix By Michael S. Baker Ashley A. Donovan Attorneys for Respondent/Appellant

Fredric J. Susser, Petitioner/Appellee Phoenix In Propria Persona

MEMORANDUM DECISION

MARGARET H. DOWNIE, Judge

¶1 Paula M. Thomas ("Mother") appeals the denial of her motion for new trial. For the following reasons, we affirm.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶2 Mother and Fredric J. Susser ("Father") were married in Maui, Hawaii, in September 2009. Two days later, they argued over money issues in their hotel room. Both had been drinking. Mother threw her wedding ring at Father and, according to the police report, slapped him. Father struck back several times, grabbed Mother by the neck, and forced her from the room. Two-year-old H., born to the parties prior to their marriage, observed these events. The police arrived, spoke with the parties, and arrested Father. Both parties declined medical treatment.

¶3 Father pled no contest to misdemeanor abuse of a family or household member. The Hawaii court sentenced him to two days in jail (time served) and ordered him to attend an anger management class in Arizona and to pay a fine and a fee. Father complied with these terms and also completed domestic violence offender and substance abuse treatment programs. He tested negative for alcohol and illegal drugs over a four-month period.

¶4 The parties obtained orders of protection against each other after returning to Arizona. The Scottsdale City Court denied Mother's request to include H. as a protected person on the order entered against Father.

¶5 Without notice to Father, Mother left Arizona with H. at the end of September 2009. She filed a divorce petition in Washington. Mother refused Father telephonic contact with H. for the next ten months.

¶6 Meanwhile, Father filed a dissolution petition in Arizona. In response, Mother conceded Arizona was H.'s home state under Arizona Revised Statutes ("A.R.S.") section 25-1002(7) and agreed Arizona could exercise initial child custody jurisdiction.[1] Pursuant to the family court s May 2010 temporary order, H. returned to Arizona to live with Father.

¶7 The court dissolved the parties' marriage by order filed July 26, 2011, reserving various issues for a later trial. In November 2011, it held a hearing regarding custody, Mother's request to relocate H. to Washington, and other issues. The court permitted one of Mother's witnesses, Steven Davis, to remain in the courtroom throughout trial and to testify as an expert regarding domestic batterers. But the court sustained Father's objection to Davis testifying about his observations of Father during the course of trial.[2]

¶8 In a detailed 22-page ruling, the court: (1) made findings pursuant to A.R.S. §§ 25-403(A), -403.01(B), -403.03, and -408; (2) awarded joint legal custody to the parties, with Father serving as primary residential parent with final decision-making authority; and (3) denied Mother's relocation request. Mother moved to amend the decree and also sought a new trial. She contended, inter alia, that the court erred by: (1) limiting Davis's testimony; (2) stating that her actions had alienated H. from Father; (3) ruling that no significant domestic violence had occurred; and (4) failing to support certain findings. After receiving Father's ...


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