Facts: Mother and Father divorced in 2007. Father was named the primary residential parent of their two children. Mother had the children on extended alternating weekends (Friday to Tuesday) and one overnight visit the following week. Mother filed a petition seeking a modification of the parenting schedule to alternating weeks and requesting that she be named the primary residential parent. After a trial, the trial court ruled there was no material change of circumstance to warrant changing the primary residential parent from Father to Mother, but found it was in the children’s best interest to modify the parenting schedule so that the children spent alternating weeks with Mother and Father. Father appeals.
On Appeal: The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court.
Tennessee has a different set of criteria for determining whether a material change of circumstances has occurred to justify a change of custody versus whether a material change of circumstances has occurred to justify a modification of a residential parenting schedule.
The statute regarding changes to a residential parenting schedule sets a very low threshold for establishing a material change of circumstances. Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-6-101(a)(2)(C) provides that, in order to establish the necessary change of circumstance, the parent must only show “circumstances making a change in residential parenting time in the best interest of the child.” Merely showing that the existing arrangement has proven unworkable for the parties is sufficient to satisfy the material change of circumstances test.
After analyzing the record, the Court stated:
Evidence was presented during the parties’ hearing that the children had a difficult time remembering whose house they were supposed to go to after school during the weeks when they went back and forth between Mother’s and Father’s houses, and as a result sometimes went to stand in the carline when they should have gone to the busline, and vice versa. The parties’ son was struggling in some academic areas, and Mother testified she would be more effective assisting her son with his school work if she could have him with her for an entire week, and thereby know what his requirements were that week, rather than having him for just a day here and there during the school week. . . .
Based on the record of the proceedings, we believe the evidence supports the trial court’s finding that alternating weeks with Mother and Father will provide the children with more stability and will be less disruptive to their schedules. We therefore affirm the trial court’s conclusion that modifying the residential parenting schedule to an alternating week on/week off with each parent is in the best interests of the children.
Information provided by K.O. Herston: Knoxville, Tennessee Divorce And Family Law Attorney.