Maximum Participation Possible Time with Child Outweighed
Tennessee child custody modification case summary.
The mother and father in this Shelby County, Tennessee, custody case were never married, and separated before their son’s first birthday. The father was a pilot for FedEx and was also an active duty pilot in the National Guard, and he traveled about 15 days per month, with a schedule that varied from month to month. The mother was a certified nurse anesthetist. Her schedule also varied on a monthly basis, and she worked two 24 hour shifts per week.
In 2011, the father filed a petition to be named the primary residential parent. After mediation, the parties agreed that the mother would be the primary residential parent, with a flexible schedule that accommodated their work schedules. In 2014, the father filed a petition to modify the parenting plan, citing changed circumstances. He alleged that the mother had a history of mental instability, anger, and violence. The trial court set a revised parenting schedule, but the father objected on the grounds that his work schedule varied, and that he might not be able to take advantage of some of his scheduled parenting time. After a rehearing, the trial court stayed with a fixed schedule, and the father appealed to the Tennessee Court of Appeals. He argued that the schedule did not allow him to enjoy the maximum possible time with his child.
The appeals court first noted that factual findings of the lower court are presumed to be correct, and will only be set aside if the preponderance of the evidence is otherwise. It also noted that there were no hard and fast rules for parenting plans.
The father argued that allowing both parents to enjoy the maximum participation possible should be the court’s primary consideration. The court agreed that under the relevant statute, this is an important factor.
However, in this case, the lower court had looked to other factors, such as difficulties in communication and collaboration by the parents. It had held that these difficulties would not serve the child’s interests. The Court of Appeals agreed with this analysis. While a flexible schedule might have been ideal, its adoption in this case could have exposed the child to high levels of parental conflict.
The appeals court held that this factor outweighed the desire to maximize parental time, and that the lower court’s decision was well within its discretion.
The Court of Appeals also considered whether an award of attorney fees to the mother had been appropriate, and remanded the case for a determination of whether the amount awarded had been reasonable.
No. W2015-01947-COA-R3-JV (Tenn. Ct. App. Oct. 5, 2016).
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 actual examples of parenting plans and child support worksheets from real cases available on Amazon.com.