Bales v. LoweryAnnotate this Case
Jennifer Bales (Mother) and Steven Lowery (Father) divorced in 2013. The divorce decree: awarded them joint legal and physical custody of their two daughters; said that “[c]ustodial time shall be shared between the parties to allow for the children to have equal time with both parents and the parents shall cooperate with each other to reach this goal,” but specified that the girls would reside with Mother during the school year; and gave Mother final decision-making authority in matters involving the girls’ education. The decree also included a default visitation schedule that gave Father the girls for “the entirety of the summer break from school” except for one week, but required him to return the children to Mother five days before the start of the new school year. The decree also included an unusual provision giving Husband the right to “take temporary physical custody immediately” should “Wife be incarcerated for any reason” or should “either of the minor children advise both parents that she wishes to reside on a full time basis with [Husband].” Both parties were unemployed at the time of the divorce, and in light of the time-sharing arrangement contemplated by the divorce decree, neither was ordered to pay the other child support. At some point, Father moved to Baldwin County, and Mother moved to Henry County. Mother allowed the parties’ older daughter, Jamie, to reside with Father in Baldwin County and attend school there during the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 school years, but disagreements about custodial time and the girls’ proper care eventually arose, and Mother decided not to allow Jamie to reside with Father in Baldwin County and attend school there during the 2015-2016 school year. Instead, Mother decided that, as provided in the divorce decree, Jamie would reside with Mother and attend public school in Henry County with her younger sister. Father refused to return Jamie to Mother at the end of the 2015 summer school break. Mother appealed the trial court’s order denying her petition for habeas corpus seeking the return of her older daughter from Father. The Supreme Court concluded that the trial court erred in denying the petition and therefore reversed.