Less Parenting Time Than Other Parent Proposed Affirmed in Franklin, Tennessee Divorce: Sullivan v. Sullivan

Tennessee parenting scheduleFactsHusband and Wife, the parents of two children, divorced after 11 years of marriage.

Husband’s proposed parenting plan awarded him 261 days of parenting time.

Wife’s proposed parenting plan awarded Husband 120 days of parenting time.

After five days of trial where Husband was found to have testified falsely on some issues, the trial court entered a detailed order designating Wife as the primary residential parent. Husband received 96 days of parenting time.

Husband appealed.

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

Husband argued that the award of 38 fewer days of parenting time than even Wife proposed showed the trial court was punishing him for his misstatements and dishonesty in his testimony.

The Court found no fault in the trial court’s evaluation of the evidence:

[T]he record establishes that both parents substantially contributed to the overall care of the children. . . .

Husband contends that because Wife proposed that he received more parenting time than the trial court awarded, the trial court was undoubtedly punishing him for testifying falsely. Husband’s argument is nothing more than mere speculation. . . .

[T]he trial court weighed the [statutory best-interest] factors . . . . The trial court allocated parenting time in a fashion that it determined would provide the children with the most consistency, while still allowing Husband to enjoy frequent contact with the children. This finding refutes Husband’s argument that his parenting time was reduced as a form of punishment.

* * * * *

The trial court was tasked with the responsibility of formulating a parenting plan that was in the best interest of the children. After reviewing every document in the voluminous record and considering Husband’s arguments, we cannot say that the trial court abused its discretion. We decline to modify the decision of the trial court for the simple purpose of achieving a result that favors Husband.

The trial court’s parenting schedule was affirmed.

K.O.’s Comment: This outcome follows the Kennedy opinion, which is another case where the trial court awarded less parenting time than both parents proposed. Compare that with the McDaniel opinion, where the Court of Appeals held it was an abuse of discretion for the trial court to award less parenting time than both parents proposed. Would Husband have stood a better chance of success if he argued the McDaniel reasoning rather than speculating about the trial court’s motives?

Sullivan v. Sullivan (Tennessee Court of Appeals, Middle Section, October 14, 2019).

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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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