Tennessee child custody modification case summary.
The mother and father in this Rutherford County, Tennessee had one daughter, who was born in 2008. They agreed to a parenting plan, and in 2009, the court entered an order incorporating that plan. The mother was named the primary residential parent.
In 2018, the father returned to court asking for modification of the custody provisions. He alleged that there had been a substantial and material change in circumstances for a number of reasons. First, he pointed out that the mother and child had moved closer than at the time of the original order. While they were three hours away when the original order was made, they now lived less than a mile from him. The father also alleged that the mother was exploiting the child on social media. The case was tried in early 2019 before Judge Adam Dodd.
The father pointed to an Instagram account in the daughter’s name using the daughter’s images. He pointed out that there were over 10,000 followers of this account, including at least one of which included pornographic content. While the mother blocked this follower, she did not take down the account.
After hearing the evidence, the trial court noted that both parents were good people and had good homes, and that the case was very well suited to equal parenting time. For that reason, the court granted the father’s petition and awarded both parents equal parenting time.
The mother then filed an appeal with the Tennessee Court of Appeals.
The appeals court noted that in a case involving change of custody, there is always a two-step process. First, the court must make a finding of changed circumstances. Then, it must decide what is in the child’s best interest.
In this case, the lower court had found a change of circumstances based upon the mother’s move, as well as changed needs due to the child’s age. The appeals court carefully analyzed the evidence and held that the evidence supported the lower court’s findings. Therefore, it affirmed this part of the lower court’s ruling.
The appeals court then turned to the statutory factors used to analyze the child’s best interests. Once again, the appeals court held that the lower court had made findings on this issue, and that the evidence supported them.
For these reasons, the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the lower court and assessed the costs of appeal against the mother. The appellate court’s opinion was authored by Judge Andy D. Bennett.
No. M2019-01264-COA-R3-JV (Tenn. Ct. App. Nov. 25, 2020).
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.
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