In a ruling stretching across three continents, Wyoming’s Supreme Court has decided it would be inconvenient for a man in Saudi Arabia to respond in Jackson to a motion in a custody case filed by the man’s ex-wife in Russia.
The court unanimously upheld a lower court’s decision that a request for a change in a custody agreement issued in Teton County in 2016 be heard in a court in Bahrain rather than Jackson.
The ruling stems from a custody agreement issued in the divorce of Ekaterina Nicholaevna Pokrovskaya and Eric Van Gendern.
According to the ruling, Pokrovskaya and Van Genderen married in 1992 and had a child in 2008. In 2016, they divorced in Teton County.
At the time of their divorce, Pokrovskaya lived in Russia and Van Genderen and their child lived in Teton County.
The divorce decree granted the father custody and the mother was granted visitation 10 days each month.
In 2018, the father and child moved to Russia, then spent the summer of 2019 in Morocco before moving to Bahrain. Pokrovskaya remained in Russia.
Pokrovskaya asked for a modification in visitation rights in 2019, saying Van Genderen had frustrated her visitation rights and alienated the child from her.
Van Genderen asked that the request be dismissed in state district court on the grounds it was no longer a convenient forum for him and then filed custody proceedings in Bahrain. The proceedings Bahrain were paused until the question of where the arguments could be heard could be settled.
A district court in Teton County dismissed Pokrovskaya’s motion and she appealed, saying the district court abused its authority with the decision.
But the Supreme Court’s opinion, written by Justice Kari Gray, found that the district court properly weighed all the evidence before it when it made its decision, including the distance and cost to travel between Bahrain and Jackson and the fact that most of the records in the case can be found in either Bahrain or Russia.
The ruling also noted the district court examined the fact Russian authorities “investigated a domestic violence allegation against mother that occurred during a visit with the child.”
“(The district court) concluded, on balance, the circumstances in this case weighed in favor of (allowing the proceedings to continue in Bahrain),” the opinion said. “The district court’s findings and conclusions are supported by the record before us.”