Posted by: koherston | March 3, 2011

Relocation and Custody: Morris v. Morris

Facts: While the parties’ divorce action was pending, Wife relocated with the parties’ child to Illinois, where her family lived. Husband claimed Wife simply took off with no notice. Wife claimed Husband locked her and the children (Wife had a child from a previous relationship) out of the marital residence. The parties acknowledged that Wife had served as the primary caregiver for their child. The trial court designated Wife as the primary residential parent for the child. Regarding Husband’s objection to Wife’s relocation, the trial court ruled:

Wife had valid reasons for returning to Illinois since her family and her job prior to the marriage were both there. Consequently, had Wife requested permission in advance for the move, she would have been allowed to return to Illinois. Therefore, the trial court did not require her to return to Tennessee.

Husband appealed.

On Appeal: The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court.

Husband argued that Wife was in contempt for violating the statutory injunction in Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-4-106(d)(5), which provides in relevant part:

An injunction restraining both parties from relocating any children of the parties outside the state of Tennessee, or more than one hundred (100) miles from the marital home, without the permission of the other party or an order of the court, except in the case of a removal based upon a well-founded fear of physical abuse against either the fleeing parent or the child.

The Court responded:

Husband correctly observes that Wife moved to Illinois without notifying him or obtaining the permission of the trial court, and suffered no adverse consequences from this act. However, both parties recounted differing versions of the facts surrounding Wife’s move, and the trial court found that neither was “particularly credible.” As noted above, the trial court’s assessment of the witnesses’ credibility is accorded great weight on appeal. If the trial court declined to credit Husband’s version of the events, we are not at liberty to do so. . . .

In this cause, the trial court relied heavily on the fact that Wife had always been the child’s primary caregiver. Husband testified that he travels less often and has a more flexible work schedule than he had maintained in the past; however, his work still requires frequent travel out of town. Husband’s testified that he would hire his neighbor’s sister-in-law, whose last name he could not remember, to care for the child in his absence. In Illinois, Wife has a structured job during business hours with no travel and can be home with the child each evening, and has members of her extended family available to assist in child care. Thus, the evidence indicates that, in Illinois, Wife is able to provide the child with a stable, structured environment, and Husband’s testimony does not indicate that he can provide a comparably stable environment. . . .

After a careful review of the record, we find that there is ample evidence to support the trial court’s decision.

Morris v. Morris (Tennessee Court of Appeals, Middle Section, February 8, 2011).

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


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