Parental Relocation Questioned in Memphis, Tennessee Postdivorce Dispute: Franklin v. Franklin

December 1, 2021 K.O. Herston 0 Comments

Facts: When Husband and Wife divorced, their agreed parenting plan designated Mother as the primary residential parent and gave Father substantial and frequent parenting time.

Over five years later, Mother was offered a better job in Houston, Texas. She accepted the offer on the condition that the trial court allow her to relocate with Child.

Father objected to the relocation.

Mother petitioned for permission to relocate with Child.

After a two-day trial, the trial court granted Mother’s petition. The parties were ordered to mediate a new parenting plan, which they successfully did.

Father appealed.

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

Under Tennessee’s parental-relocation statute, Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-6-108(a), if a parent has parenting time and wants to move over 50 miles from the other parent or move outside of Tennessee, the relocating parent must send notice to the other parent.

The other parent then has 30 days to object to the proposed relocation.

If a timely objection occurs, the relocating parent must file a petition seeking approval.

The trial court must then decide whether relocation is in the child’s best interest by considering the factors set out in the statute.

After reviewing and affirming the trial court’s findings as to each of the statutory factors—some of which favored Mother, and some of which favored Father—the Court found no abuse of discretion in the trial court’s judgment:

Although the trial court affirmed that Father was very involved in Child’s life, it ultimately found that Mother “performed the majority of parenting responsibilities relating to the daily needs of Child.” … [T]his finding is supported by the record and bolsters the trial court’s finding that relocation is in Child’s best interest.

As the trial court stated in its order, “[a] decision whether … to allow a move for a parent with a child over [the] objection of the other [parent] is a difficult task.” Ultimately, the trial court found that relocation is in Child’s best interest. On appeal, we are prevented from second-guessing the trial court’s decision to allow relocation unless we conclude the trial court abused its discretion. Here, the trial court methodically analyzed each relocation factor against the evidence. The evidence demonstrates that relocation will provide Child with an increased standard of living, better educational opportunities than what he would have in Memphis, and the additional support of his maternal grandparents. Although the trial court noted that Child’s relocation to Houston would undoubtedly alter the nature of Child’s relationship with Father, the evidence shows that the two would still be able to foster a meaningful relationship, albeit from different cities. This Court does not doubt Father’s unwavering commitment to Child, but based on the trial court’s order and the entire record, we cannot conclude that the trial court abused its discretion in finding that relocation is in Child’s best interest.

The Court affirmed the trial court’s judgment.

K.O.’s Comment: This is only the third appellate opinion to apply the “new” 2018 version of Tennessee’s parental-relocation statute. The first is Schaefer and the second is Dungey.

Franklin v. Franklin (Tennessee Court of Appeals, Western Section, November 24, 2021).

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Parental Relocation Questioned in Memphis, Tennessee Postdivorce Dispute: Franklin v. Franklin was last modified: November 28th, 2021 by K.O. Herston

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