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Bell v. Bell

Alaska Supreme Court
794 P.2d 97 (1990)


Facts

Greg Bell (plaintiff) and Debra Bell (defendant) married in 1986, had a son, then separated in 1987. After Mr. Bell filed for divorce, the court entered a partial divorce decree that reserved its decision on child custody. During the marriage, Mr. and Mrs. Bell shared parenting responsibilities equally. Because both were employed, a regular babysitter, Sharon Nollman, often watched the child. After separating, Mr. and Mrs. Bell agreed to share custody switching off every week or so. They both used Nollman as a babysitter and were accommodating and cooperative with each other in all respects. After several months, Mrs. Bell began placing the child in daycare instead of using Nollman. Mr. Bell continued using Nollman during his custodial periods. This issue of childcare was the only dispute between the parties regarding their son. Upon reviewing the case, a custody investigator recommended that the parents continue to share legal custody but that the child be assigned permanent residence with Mrs. Bell. Mrs. Bell approved of that recommendation. The trial court, however, awarded both legal and physical custody of the child solely to Mrs. Bell on the ground that the couple could not adequately cooperate with respect to their child’s interests. Mr. Bell was granted biweekly weekend visitation rights, weekly visitation on Wednesday nights, and periodic one-week visitation periods. He appealed.

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Matthews, C.J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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