“Disruptive” Parenting Schedule Challenged in Clarksville, Tennessee Parenting-Plan Modification: Krulewicz v. Krulewicz

February 14, 2022 K.O. Herston 0 Comments

Facts: Mother and Father are the divorced parents of two children.

Mother is a military nurse stationed in Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Father is enlisted in the Air Force and was stationed in Nevada at the time of divorce.

Their initial parenting plan awarded Father 65 days of parenting time each year.

After relocating to Georgia two years later, Father petitioned to modify the parenting plan.

The trial court found “both parties have settled into more stable situations such that a revised parenting schedule is both necessary and feasible.”

The trial court modified the parenting plan to increase Father’s parenting time to 130 days each year. Specifically, Father was awarded one long weekend each month during school, the option of exercising another weekend each month near Mother’s residence, and substantial holiday time.

Mother appealed.

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

If a Tennessee court finds there has been a material change in circumstances, it must then determine whether it’s in the children’s best interest to modify the parenting plan.

Mother challenged the trial court’s findings as to several best-interest factors. The only one I find noteworthy is Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-6-106(a)(9), which requires courts to consider

[t]he child’s interaction and interrelationships with siblings, other relatives and step-relatives, and mentors, and the child’s involvement with the child’s physical surroundings, school, or other significant activities.

Mother argued the trial court did not consider the children’s involvement with school, scouting, sports activities, and church. Mother complained that the new parenting schedule would have a “disruptive effect” on the children’s lives, “making participation in typical childhood activities difficult if not impossible.”

While Tennessee courts should try to fashion parenting plans that minimize disruption, unfortunately, some disruption in children’s lives is inevitable in divorce. Adjustments and accommodations must be made because of the divorce, the whole point of which is to permit each parent to go their own way. Within reason, both parents must be allowed to do so, and the child’s best interest must be served within that context.

Tennessee’s public policy places great importance on maximizing a noncustodial parent’s time, so long as that arrangement is in the child’s best interest.

The Court addressed Mother’s complaints about a “disruptive” parenting schedule:

[I]t is foreseeable that semimonthly weekend visitation may interfere with some activities that the [children] could participate in while in Mother’s care….

Here, it may be true that the children’s activities will be disrupted by the schedule imposed by the trial court. Unfortunately, this is a natural consequence of the divorce and the parties’ obligations, which require that they live in different locations. This distance does not appear to be the fault of any party. In order for Father to have an opportunity to parent his children on more than a periodic basis, some disruption is unfortunately inevitable.

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[T]he trial court concluded that Mother should still spend the majority of the time with the children, but that Father’s time with the children should be increased. … [W]e cannot conclude that the trial court abused its discretion in deciding that a material change in circumstances affecting the children’s best interest warranted an increase in the time that Father is able to spend with the children.

It is important to emphasize that this conclusion certainly should not be viewed as calling Mother’s parenting skills into question. Rather, the proof establishes that Mother has been the primary parenting figure in the children’s lives, at least since the divorce. The modification does, however, allow Father to move closer to the statutory goal, which is to allow both parents to enjoy the “maximum participation possible” in the lives of the children.

The Court affirmed the trial court’s modification of Father’s parenting time.

Krulewicz v. Krulewicz (Tennessee Court of Appeals, Middle Section, February 1, 2022).

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“Disruptive” Parenting Schedule Challenged in Clarksville, Tennessee Parenting-Plan Modification: Krulewicz v. Krulewicz was last modified: February 11th, 2022 by K.O. Herston

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