Written by attorney April Watkins Nemer

Post-Divorce Relocation Custody Cases

Tennessee Post-Divorce Relocation Granted

The following Tennessee appellate cases and links to the opinions describe disputes in which parents were allowed to relocate with their children after the divorce over the objection of the other parents.

Annette Bulick vs. Richard Thompson

Shelby County - Father/Appellant filed a Petition in Opposition to Mother's Relocation with the Minor Child. Trial court found that parents did not exercise substantially equal parenting time under the Parental Relocation Statute, T.C.A. § 36-6-108, and allowed Mother/Appellee to move with the minor child. Father appealed. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

Sunil Kawatra v. Neelam Kawatra

Sumner County - This case involved a petition to relocate pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-6-108 (2001). To determine whether the parties in a relocation case were spending substantially equal intervals of time with their child, the "time actually spent" with each parent should be computed in units of a day. The number of days to be credited to each parent should be based upon an examination of the residential schedule, additional time not reflected in the residential schedule, and adjustments for any violations to the residential schedule. To allocate a day for which both parents claim credit, the trial court should examine the hours that each parent actually spent with the child on that day, the activities in which each parent participated with the child, the resources that each parent expended on the child's behalf, and any other factor that the trial court considers to be relevant. After careful consideration of the record, the Supreme Court of Tennessee concluded that the parties were not spending substantially equal intervals of time with the child. Because the mother was spending a greater amount of time with the child, she should be permitted to relocate with the child pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-6-108(d) (2001). Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Appeals was affirmed as modified, and the case was remanded to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Stephanie Watson vs. Timothy Watson

Henderson County - This case was about parental relocation and child custody. The parents of a minor child divorced in 2001. Both parents lived in Lexington , Tennessee , and, at the time of the divorce, agreed to joint custody. The child alternated daily between the parents' homes. In 2002, the mother remarried and moved to Murfreesboro , Tennessee . The mother petitioned the court to designate her as primary residential parent and allow her to move the child with her to Murfreesboro . The father opposed the petition and asked the court to designate him as the primary residential parent. The trial court found that it was in the child's best interest to move to Murfreesboro with the mother, and designated her as primary residential parent. The father appealed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, finding that the evidence did not preponderate against the trial court's decision to designate mother as primary residential parent and permit the child to move with her.

Jennifer Branham vs. Jeffery Branham

Hamblen County - Mother petitioned the Court to relocate to Kentucky with the parties child, which the Trial Court granted. On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed.

Beth Collins v. James Coode

Montgomery County - This appeal involved a dispute regarding the post-divorce move by a primary residential parent from Clarksville to Knoxville . Upon receiving notice of the planned move, the non-residential parent petitioned the Chancery Court for Montgomery County to prevent the move or to change custody. The trial court conducted a bench trial and denied the petition. On this appeal, the non-residential parent asserted that the court applied the wrong relocation standards because it mistakenly concluded that the parents had not been spending substantially equal amounts of time with their children. The Court of Appeals concluded that the record supported the trial court's conclusion that the parents had not spent substantially equal time with the children, and therefore, the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment.

Conan Clark, Jr. v. Carol Clark

Rutherford County - A divorced mother of two girls sent a letter to her former husband, declaring her intention to move with the children to Virginia in order to marry her new fiancé. The father filed a petition objecting to the relocation and asking for a change of custody. The trial court held that under the provisions of Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-6-108, the mother was entitled to relocate once she remarried. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

Rutherford Quinn v. Tina Quinn

Montgomery County - Mother and Father divorced pursuant to a Marital Dissolution Agreement ("MDA") in 1996. Under the MDA, Mother had physical custody of the child during the school year. In the Fall of 1999, Mother moved to Alabama with the child. Father filed a petition for contempt and change of custody. The trial court held that Mother's move was a material change in circumstances and that Father would receive primary custody of the child. Mother appealed. Taking into account the provisions of the Relocation Statute, Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-6-108, the Court of Appeals vacated the trial court's decision and remanded for further proceedings.

Denise Leach vs. Jack Leach

This was a post-divorce dispute over the mother's desire to relocate with the parties' two minor children. The mother sought to relocate after receiving a job offer in South Carolina , contending that the move was for career advancement. The father opposed the relocation, arguing that the real reason for the move was vindictive or to interfere with his visitation rights. The father also sought to reduce child support. The trial court found that the reasonable purpose for the mother's move was career advancement and allowed relocation. It ordered the father to pay a portion of the children's travel expenses, denied the petition to reduce child support, and ordered the father to pay a portion of the mother's attorney's fees. The father appealed. The Court of Appeals affirmed in part and modified in part.

Meredith Warren vs. John Warren

In this child custody case, the Appellant and the Appellee agreed to joint custody of their child with the Appellee being the primary custodial parent. After learning of the Appellee's plans to move out of state with the child, the Appellant filed a Petition for Opposition of Minor Child's Move from the State of Tennessee and/or Petition for Change of Custody. The trial court granted temporary custody to the Appellant pending a reevaluation of the matter. After a hearing, the trial court ordered joint custody of the child to the Appellant and the Appellee and decreed that the child live primarily with the Appellee out of state.

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