Mom’s Move With Kids Held Vindictive and Relocation Denied
Tennessee child custody case summary on parent relocation.
The mother and father in this Tennessee case lived together in Jackson, Tennessee, in 2007 when their daughter was born. When the daughter was about two months old, the mother asked the father to move out. They attempted to reconcile, and had a son who was born in 2009. The father signed both birth certificates, and the children were given a hyphenated last name with both parents’ names. There was no formal parenting plan in place, but the father exercised parenting time which he estimated at about 150 days per year, and which the mother estimated as being about one third of the year.
In 2011, the State of Tennessee filed a petition to set child support. The mother then retained an attorney and filed a complaint to establish parenting and set a permanent parenting plan and child support order. The father admitted that he was the biological father, and asked the court to adopt his parenting plan. The court adopted a plan and there was one appeal to the Tennessee Court of Appeals in 2012.
In 2013, the father filed a petition to adjust the parenting time, and a few months later, the mother sent a notice of her intent to relocate to the Nashville/Mt. Juliet area. The father filed a petition opposing this move, and asserted that he reasons for moving were vindictive.
In July, the mother moved to Dickson, Tennessee, and resided with her new boyfriend and the boyfriend’s mother. She didn’t notify the father of the address, and when she enrolled the children in school, she didn’t list the father as an emergency contact.
A hearing was finally held in 2015, and the court issued its ruling in July 2015. The court held that the Tennessee parental relocation statute applied to the case. It found that the mother had been spending about 60 percent of the time with the children. In such a case, relocation is allowed unless the court finds that there is no reasonable purpose, there would be a threat to the child, or the reason was vindictive. The court went on to find that there was no reasonable purpose for the move, and that it was done for vindictive reasons. Therefore, it held that the move was improper, and that the children should spend the rest of the summer with the father, with the mother having weekend visitation. After the mother expressed her intent not to move back, another hearing was held, and the father was named the primary residential parent. The mother was given parenting time on weekends and during the summer. The mother then appealed to the Tennessee Court of Appeals. After some procedural wrangling, the appeals court heard the case.
The appeals court first noted that the trial court’s factual findings had a presumption of correctness, unless the preponderance of the evidence was otherwise. Based on that standard, it began its review of the case. It first agreed with the lower court that the parental relocation statute was applicable.
Even though the lower court had not made specific findings as to the reasonableness of the purpose, the appeals court was able to review the record for the relevant evidence. It focused on the fact that the mother’s move also detracted from the stability of the children’s environment.
After its review of the evidence, the Court of Appeals agreed that the lower court had applied the proper standard. For that reason, it affirmed the lower court’s judgment and taxed the costs of the appeal against the mother.
No. W2016-00377-COA-R3-JV (Tenn. Ct. App. Aug. 25, 2016).
See original opinion for exact language. Legal citations omitted.
To learn more, see Tennessee Parent Relocation Statute Law.