Facts: Shortly after Child’s birth to unmarried parents, Mother was named the primary residential parent and Father was awarded liberal co-parenting time. Several years later, Father filed a petition to change custody alleging several material changes of circumstances. After a hearing, the trial court found several materials changes of circumstances, including
“proof that the minor child’s progress in school continues to digress, the Mother continues to neglect the educational and counseling needs of the minor child and the Mother has failed to adhere to the prior orders of this Court concerning truancy and visitation matters concerning the minor child.”
The trial court then found it was in Child’s best interest to change custody such that Father was designated the primary residential parent. Mother appealed.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court. Regarding Child’s educational struggles while in Mother’s care, the trial court found:
There’s been overwhelming testimony about the woeful difficulties that Tyrus is having in his education. The testimony has been that he has been primarily dependent upon his mother to get him to school, to get him to school on time, to make sure that he is able to attend to his education. And it appears that we have come up considerably short on that factor. On the other hand, the testimony has been that when Tyrus has been in his father’s care that he has been diligent about making sure that he gets to school on time, that he helps him with his homework, has his lessons done and things of that sort.
While Mother hired a tutor for Child at one point, the trial court faulted her for “not being aware of his academic status, or speaking with his teachers and things of that sort.”
Moreover, the trial court found that Mother had consistently interfered with Father’s co-parenting time. The guardian ad litem stated at trial that “[Mother] continuously, much to my regret, ignores this Court’s Orders [regarding visitation].” Father testified that he had no parenting time during holidays in 2006 and 2007, and the court found Mother guilty of four counts of contempt for withholding holiday parenting time in 2007. The Court of Appeals noted the trial court was correct to weigh this factor “the most heavily in making its best interest determination.”
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: a parent should do everything he or she can to encourage, foster, and promote the child’s relationship with the other parent. Failure to do so may very well result in a change of custody.
Information provided by K.O. Herston, Tennessee Divorce Lawyer.