Posted by: koherston | February 24, 2014

Parental Relocation at Issue in Hartsville Child Custody Dispute: Graham v. Vaughn

Facts: Mother and Father are the parents of a child born out of wedlock. Following the birth of the child, the parties lived together for about six months and then separated.

Eight years later, when Mother and her boyfriend moved the child to Florida, Father petitioned to establish paternity. He also requested that he be named the primary residential parent such that the child would reside in Tennessee.

The trial court found that the child had been involved with and cared for by Father and his parents “on a regular and daily basis.” The trial court further found that it was in the child’s best interest “that she be in Tennessee with the family she has always lived around and who has cared for her on a daily basis since her birth.”

The trial court established a parenting plan that designated Mother as the primary residential parent so long as Mother resided in Tennessee. Father was awarded frequent parenting time.

Mother appealed the requirement that she remain in Tennessee as a condition of her designation as primary residential parent.

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

The procedure for establishing parentage and custody for a child born out of wedlock is governed by Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-2-311. Once the parentage of the child is established, parental access is to be determined pursuant to Chapter 6 of Title 36. In any proceeding between parents under the chapter, Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-6-106 provides that “the best interests of the child shall be standard by which the court determines and allocates the parties’ parental responsibilities.”

After reviewing the record, the Court concluded:

The evidence does not preponderate against the court’s findings of fact. The record contains ample evidence of the child’s meaningful relationship with Father and other family members who live in Tennessee, relationships which benefit the child and would be impaired by the child’s move to Florida. The evidence shows that Father and his parents have provided a safety net to Mother and the child, which is significant given the court’s finding of Mother’s instability—a finding that is also supported by the record.

Accordingly, the trial court’s requirement that Mother return to Tennessee with the child in order to be designated the primary residential parent was affirmed.

Graham v. Vaughn (Tennessee Court of Appeals, Middle Section, January 30, 2014).

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


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