Equal Parenting Time Affirmed in Clarksville, TN Divorce: Spencer v. Spencer

Facts: Mother and Father, the parents of one child, divorced after 3 1/2 years of marriage.

Mother and Father are both paramedics. Their work schedules require them to work a rotating shift of 24 hours on and 48 hours off. Mother’s schedule differs from Father’s in that it allows her one full week off from work every four weeks.

Father requested an equal parenting time arrangement of alternating weeks. Mother sought substantially more parenting time than Father.

The trial court designated Mother the primary residential parent. Mother was awarded 183 days of parenting time while Father was awarded 182 days. The parents were ordered to exercise parenting time every other week, with exchanges taking place on Saturday at noon. The trial court specifically found:

Father has a true desire to equally parent the child and share the responsibilities with the Mother. The Mother does not have the same desire for equal parenting. The Mother’s desire to have more time than the Father is unreasonable in the court’s opinion, and not in the child’s best interest.

Mother appealed.

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

When a Tennessee court makes a determination regarding a child’s residential arrangements, it must make a “custody determination” that is based on the child’s best interest.

In ascertaining the child’s best interest, the court is directed to allow each parent to enjoy the maximum participation possible in the life of the child consistent with the factors set out in Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-6-106(a), the location of the residences of the parents, the child’s need for stability, and all other relevant factors.

After reviewing the record, the Court reasoned:

Mother contends that the trial court failed to place the appropriate weight on several factors, including the fact that she has been the child’s primary caregiver…. [W]e cannot say the trial court abused its discretion in devising a residential schedule that allows both parties “to enjoy the maximum participation possible in the life of the child.” In reaching this conclusion, we are mindful of the broad discretion trial judges hold in fashioning parenting arrangements, especially given their ability to observe the witnesses and make credibility determinations…. The result reached by the trial court is not outside the spectrum of rulings that reasonably results from applying the correct legal standards to the evidence. Therefore, we decline to “tweak” the parenting plan in hopes of achieving a more reasonable result.

Accordingly, the trial court’s parenting schedule was affirmed.

Spencer v. Spencer (Tennessee Court of Appeals, Middle Section, February 25, 2016).

Information provided by K.O. Herston: Knoxville, Tennessee 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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