Tennessee child custody modification case summary.
The child in this Montgomery County, Tennessee, case was born to unmarried parents in 2014. The father then filed a petition to confirm parentage. Before the hearing was held, the father moved to St. Paul, Minnesota to live with his father and go to school. In 2016, the trial court, Judge Kenneth R. Goble, entered a permanent parenting plan naming the mother as the primary residential parent. The father was granted 74 days per year of parenting time.
Nine months later, the father came back to court to modify the parenting plan. He alleged that there had been a material change of circumstances in the form of the mother’s becoming difficult and antagonistic. The father asked to be named the primary residential parent.
A hearing was held in December 2017. The child was by then three years old, and the mother had another daughter. The father was living with his fiancée in Minnesota.
After the hearing, the trial court ruled in favor of the father. It held that it was in the best interests of the child to reside with the father in Minnesota. The mother was also ordered to pay child support. The mother then appealed to the Tennessee Court of Appeals.
That court first noted that the parties had agreed that there had been a material change of circumstances. Thus, the only issue was whether the old parenting plan was no longer in the child’s best interest. In making that determination, the court must follow the statutory factors.
In doing so, the lower court should find the facts specifically and state its conclusions of law. The appeals court noted that this is especially important in a custody case, since the decision is so fact driven.
In this case, however, the lower court’s order did not include any fact findings. The trial judge stated that he had applied the statutory factors, but did not go into specifics. The appeals court concluded that it was unable to analyze the lower court’s reasoning. In particular, the move to Minnesota was significant, but this factor was not addressed at all. For these reasons, the Court of Appeals held that the case would need to be remanded for complete fact finding.
The appeals court also addressed the child support order, and also held that the trial court should address this on remand.
For these reasons, the lower court’s ruling was vacated and the case remanded.
No. M2018-00979-COA-R3-JV (Tenn. Ct. App. Jun. 5, 2019).
See original opinion for exact language. Legal citations omitted.
To learn more, see Modifying Custody & Parenting Plans.
See also Tennessee Parenting Plans and Child Support Worksheets: Building a Constructive Future for Your Family featuring examples of parenting plans and child support worksheets from real cases available on Amazon.com.