In re Madison N.J.M.

Facts: Mother and Father had a brief relationship that, unbeknownst to Father, resulted in the birth of Child.  Child lived with Mother until age 4.  After Child was found to be dependent and neglected, the maternal grandmother obtained custody.  A subsequent paternity action confirmed paternity for Father.  Father agreed to permit the Grandmother to retain custody with parenting time for Father.  Father pursued a parental relationship and increased parenting time with Child, all of which was actively thwarted by Grandmother.  Of particular interest is the testimony of Grandmother’s expert who opined that “a female child needs her mother.”  Father argued, and the trial court agreed, that “ongoing gender discrimination” was a material change of circumstances justifying a change of custody.  After a trial, the Juvenile Court awarded custody to Father.  Grandmother appealed.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court.

Clearly, Grandmother and [Child’s therapist] opposed any arrangement whereby Father might gain full or even partial custody of the Child. Grandmother indicated her preference that her own daughter, Mother, regain custody, while [Child’s therapist] held a firm belief that a female child belongs with her mother. In our view, the discriminatory sentiments of Grandmother and [Child’s therapist] against Father’s potential parenting role led them to resist his efforts to expand his relationship with the Child by ensuring that his relationship with the Child progressed as slowly as possible.

This is yet another example of where a party’s failure to promote a strong relationship between the child and the other party led to a change of custody.  In this instance, the offending party was aided and abetted by a therapist.

In re Madison N.J.M. (Tenn. Ct. App. June 28, 2010).

Information provided by K.O. Herston, Tennessee Divorce Lawyer.

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K.O. Herston is a family-law attorney in Knoxville, Tennessee whose practice is devoted exclusively to family law, including divorce, child custody, child support, alimony, prenuptial agreements, and other aspects of family law.

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