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Dahlke v. Dahlke

Supreme Court of Wyoming

May 27, 2015

ERIC ROBERT DAHLKE, Appellant (Plaintiff),
v.
HEATHER JO DAHLKE, Appellee (Defendant)

Appeal from the District Court of Campbell County. The Honorable Thomas W. Rumpke, Judge.

Representing Appellant: Greg L. Goddard of Goddard, Wages & Vogel, Buffalo, Wyoming.

Representing Appellee: Dwight F. Hurich of Hurich Law Office and Lisa K. Finkey, Gillette, Wyoming.

Before BURKE, C.J., and HILL, KITE, DAVIS, and FOX, JJ.

OPINION

Page 938

FOX, Justice.

[¶1] After their divorce in 2010, the parties shared custody of their minor children, A.D. and ED, with each parent acting as primary custodian for approximately one-half of each month. Father, Eric Robert Dahlke, petitioned for custody modification alleging a material change in circumstances and requesting that the district court grant him primary custody of the minor children. Mother counterclaimed and requested that she be awarded primary custody. The district court found a material change in circumstances had occurred since entry of the original custody order, and that it was in the children's best interests for Mother to be granted primary custody with liberal visitation awarded to Father. Father appeals and we affirm.

ISSUES

[¶2] 1. Was there a material change in circumstances warranting the district court's reopening of the existing custody order?

2. Did the district court abuse its discretion in finding that it was in the best interests of the children for Mother to have primary custody?

FACTS

[¶3] The parties divorced on November 9, 2010. They had two minor children: AD,

Page 939

born in 1998, and ED, born in 2004. The parties stipulated to a shared custody arrangement, giving each parent primary custody for approximately one-half of each month.[1] Father petitioned to modify custody in September 2013.

[¶4] Father owns a three-bedroom home in Gillette where he lives with his current wife, Jodi Hoffman; their daughter; four children from Ms. Hoffman's previous marriage; and A.D. and ED, during Father's custody periods. When A.D. and ED are at Father's home, there are seven children in the house, and A.D. and ED share a bedroom with their two step-brothers. While the children generally seem to get along, A.D. and ED both reported some continuing conflict with one of their step-brothers.[2] A.D. also testified that he finds his Father's house " stressful" because of the number of people residing there. While A.D. appreciates that there is always someone to " hang out with," the lack of privacy clearly caused difficulty for AD.

[¶5] Father is currently employed at Thunder Basin Coal Company, where he has worked since 1999. The coal mine is approximately thirty-eight miles from Gillette, and requires that Father work a twelve-hour rotating shift, which includes some nights. Father testified that when he works, he leaves home no later than 5:00 a.m. (or p.m. if he is working nights) and returns home between 8:00 and 8:15 p.m. (or a.m.).

[¶6] Mother also owns her own three-bedroom home in Gillette where she resides with her significant other, Wayne Patches; and A.D. and ED when she has custody. In Mother's home the children each have their own bedroom. A.D. testified that he likes this arrangement as it provides him with more personal space and privacy. Mother is currently employed at Jack's ...


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