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Gosbee v. Gosbee

Supreme Court of Vermont

June 12, 2015

Dain Gosbee
v.
Christina Gosbee

On Appeal from Superior Court, Washington Unit, Family Division Thomas J. Devine, J.

Harold B. Stevens of Stevens Law Office, Stowe, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Nanci A. Smith of Nanci A. Smith, PLLC, Williston, for Defendant-Appellee.

PRESENT: Reiber, C.J., Dooley, Skoglund, Robinson and Eaton, JJ.

ROBINSON, J.

¶ 1. This case calls upon us to consider Vermont’s statutory residency requirement for filing a divorce action. The trial court dismissed husband’s divorce complaint on the ground that the residency requirement was not satisfied. We affirm.

¶ 2. Husband, Dain Gosbee, filed a divorce action in the Superior Court, Washington Unit, Family Division, on November 1, 2013. His wife, Christina Gosbee, was living in Germany at the time with the parties’ minor child. When he filed the divorce complaint, husband also filed a motion to establish parentage and a motion for a temporary order requiring wife to facilitate his telephonic or Web-based video communication with the minor child.

¶ 3. Wife filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the Vermont court did not have personal jurisdiction over her; that the statutory residency requirement for a divorce action in Vermont was not satisfied; and that the court did not have jurisdiction to adjudicate issues concerning the minor child. [1] The trial court held a hearing and granted wife’s motion at the conclusion of husband’s evidence. The court rejected wife’s argument that the court lacked personal jurisdiction, but concluded that the statutory residency requirement was not satisfied and that Vermont did not have jurisdiction concerning matters involving the minor child under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), 15 V.S.A. §§ 1061-1094. Husband appeals.

¶ 4. The trial court made the following findings. Husband was born and raised in Vermont. His father resides in Vermont, and his mother in Georgia. The parties met in 2002 and began living together in Berlin, Vermont, in 2005. Husband worked at the Vermont State Hospital, where he suffered a skull injury. This injury is the subject of an ongoing claim for workers’ compensation. In 2007, the parties bought a home in East Montpelier. In 2009, their child was born. For a short time, the parties operated a store in Waterbury.

¶ 5. In March 2010, the parties sold their East Montpelier home, put some of their furniture in storage, and moved in with wife’s parents at their home in Barre, Vermont. Later that year, wife’s parents moved to Germany, where wife’s father worked as a civilian contractor with the U.S. military. In October, the parties decided to join wife’s parents in Germany so they could “work, travel and save money.” Their hope was to return to the United States when they had saved enough money for a down payment on a house. The parties never intended to relocate to Germany or another foreign country on a permanent basis. Neither ever applied for German citizenship or a permanent work visa. It was always their intention to return to the United States. Whether they intended to return to Vermont is another matter.

¶ 6. In Germany, the parties did not live on a U.S. military base. Wife found work with a child-development center, and the parties acquired a vehicle together and opened an account at a German branch of an international bank.

¶ 7. In January 2011, the parties traveled to Vermont for several weeks for wife’s graduation from Vermont College, and so husband could make some inquiries concerning his workers’-compensation claim. In September 2011, the parties traveled to Vermont for three or four weeks for their wedding and then returned to Germany.

¶ 8. In October 2011, husband surrendered his Vermont driver’s license and obtained a Georgia driver’s license. The trial court concluded that husband’s actions reflected his intent at the time to return to Georgia when their sojourn in Germany was over. Wife maintained her Vermont driver’s license throughout all relevant periods.

¶ 9. After the parties’ return to Germany after their September 2011 wedding, husband found work in Germany. In June 2012, husband returned to Vermont to pursue an internship. Wife and the minor child followed a few weeks later. While they were in Vermont, the minor child was treated by a dentist. The internship did not work out, and the parties returned ...


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