Facts: Mother and Father, parents of three children, were divorced in 2009. Mother was designated the primary residential parent at the time of divorce. Father was awarded 159 days of parenting time.
Later, Mother was permitted to relocate to Texas with the children. This relocation required the development of a new parenting schedule.
After a hearing, Father was awarded the following parenting time: fall vacations on even-numbered years; half of the two weeks for Christmas vacation; five weeks in the summer and every spring vacation; and holiday time, but — curiously — not weekends that adjoined the holidays. This resulted in a reduction in Father’s annual parenting time from 159 days to 57 days.
On Appeal: The Court of Appeals modified the trial court’s judgment.
Father sought parenting time on weekends adjacent to his holiday parenting time. He argued the children’s best interests are not served by the omission of his weekend time or weekends connected to holidays awarded to him.
When a parent relocates, Tennessee courts have the power to change the existing parenting plan to fit the new circumstances of the parties and their children. Courts typically make changes necessary to fit the practicalities of the new living arrangements of the children.
Because decisions regarding parenting arrangements are factually driven and require careful consideration of numerous factors, trial judges, who have the opportunity to observe the witnesses and make credibility determinations, are better positioned to evaluate the facts than appellate judges. Thus, determining the details of parenting plans is within the broad discretion of the trial judge. It is not the function of appellate courts to tweak a residential parenting schedule in the hopes of achieving a more reasonable result than the trial court. A trial court’s decision regarding the details of a residential parenting schedule is not supposed to be reversed absent an abuse of discretion.
After reviewing the record, the Court modified the trial court’s ruling, stating:
Mindful of our Supreme Court’s directive that we are not to tweak or micro-manage the plans entered by trial courts in these matters, we nevertheless find logic in [Father’s] request. Specifically, we find that attaching weekends to those adjacent holidays awarded to [Father] is a logical common sense accommodation that is in the best interest of the Children. This relatively minor alteration does not undermine the essence of the plan while giving the Children more time with [Father]. We remand this case to the Trial Court to modify parenting time so as to give [Father] the weekends adjacent to those holidays awarded to [Father].
Accordingly, the trial court’s judgment was modified.
Information provided by K.O. Herston: Knoxville, Tennessee Divorce, Matrimonial and Family Law Attorney.