Parenting Time Is More Important Than Church Camp: Hattaway v. Hattaway

Facts: The parties divorced after nearly 20 years of marriage. Husband was a physician with his own family medical practice. Wife was a stay-at-home mother. Around the time of the parties’ separation, Husband moved to Colorado to work as a doctor with the military. Wife stayed in Tennessee with their children. Husband sought a parenting plan in which, because of the distance between Colorado and Tennessee, he would have parenting time with the children during most school holidays and all of summer vacation. Wife objected to this because the children attended church camp each summer and wanted to go on a mission trip together during the upcoming summer. Although Wife proposed 69 days of parenting time for Husband and Husband requested 74 days of parenting time, the trial court entered a parenting plan awarding him parenting time of only 28 days a year. Husband was also ordered to pay wife $1700 a month in rehabilitative alimony for eight years. Husband appealed.

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

Parenting Time. Although Husband asked to have the children for all of summer vacation, the trial court only gave him two weeks in the summer along with other school holiday time totaling 28 days a year because of “the distance between the parties” and the children’s involvement in church camps and mission trips. Husband argued the trial court erred in failing to award him adequate parenting time. The Court agreed, writing:

We conclude that the trial court erred in limiting Husband to 28 days a year in parenting time. There were no allegations of parental misconduct, and Wife petitioned for Husband to have 69 days a year. While it is appropriate for the children to attend camps and go on mission trips, the children should also be given the opportunity to have a meaningful relationship with their father. On remand, the trial court shall determine a parenting schedule that will allow Husband to have more parenting time with the children, starting with Wife’s proposed plan as a reasonable amount. This decision will also require a recalculation of child support based upon Husband’s increased parenting time.

Alimony. The trial court awarded Wife rehabilitative alimony of $1700 per month for eight years. Husband was also ordered to pay for Wife’s health insurance for three years. Husband argued he did not have the ability to pay $1700 per month. Again, the Court agreed and said:

The trial court accepted Husband’s statement of monthly expenses . . . . Thus, Husband’s total expenses are $4,781.00. He must also pay child support on the children of this marriage in the amount of $1,566 as well as [health insurance] payments on Wife. Husband’s net income is $7,376.00. This leaves Husband with $1,029 per month less [health insurance] payments.

Based upon the evidence in the record, we conclude that the trial court erred in ordering Husband to pay Wife rehabilitative alimony in the amount of $1,700 a month as he does not have the ability to pay that amount.

The case was remanded to the trial court for a new parenting plan and a recalculation of alimony.

Hattaway v. Hattaway (Tennessee Court of Appeals, Middle Section, May 16, 2012).

Information provided by K.O. Herston: Knoxville, Tennessee Matrimonial, Divorce and Family Law Attorney.

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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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