The mother argued that because of her move to Johnson City, the trial court should have considered her ability to enroll the children there.  But the appeals court noted that she had already moved when the original plan was adopted.  Therefore, there had been no change of circumstances.

Tennessee child custody modification case summary.

Travis Payne v. Jessica Payne

The mother and father in this Greene County, Tennessee, case were divorced in 2016 and had two children, who were 6 and 5 years old at the time of their 2021 appeal.  The parties arrived at a Marital Dissolution Agreement which was approved by the court in 2019.  However, it reserved the parenting issues until a later date.  A hearing was held in April 2019, after the mother had already relocated to Johnson City.  A telephone hearing was held, and the court adopted the father’s proposed parenting plan.  After some post-trial adjustments, the father was named the primary residential parent, with each parent having 182.5 days with the children.  This was generally alternating weeks throughout the year.

About eight months later, the mother made a petition to modify the parenting plan.  She argued that there had been a material change of circumstances because the father had failed to abide by the plan.  The trial court dismissed the petition, and the mother appealed to the Tennessee Court of Appeals.

On appeal, the mother argued that the trial court had erred in failing to find a material change of circumstances.  However, in her brief on appeal, she addressed only one point of contention, namely, the designation of the school system the children would attend.  Therefore, the appeals court limited its review to that issue.

The mother pointed to alleged instances where the father had failed to communicate with her.  But the trial court had specifically ruled that the father had not made communication difficult.  Since the resolution of this issue involved witness credibility, the Court of Appeals deferred to the lower court’s finding.  It did examine the evidence and conclude that there had been no failure to communicate that would warrant a change of custody.

The mother argued that because of her move to Johnson City, the trial court should have considered her ability to enroll the children there.  But the appeals court noted that she had already moved when the original plan was adopted.  Therefore, there had been no change of circumstances.

After reviewing all of the evidence, the Court of Appeals concluded that the mother had not met her burden of proof.  Accordingly, it affirmed the lower court’s decision.

No. E2020–01083-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Jul. 14,  2021).

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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