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Solima v. Solima

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

March 11, 2015

STEPHANIE J. SOLIMA
v.
DAVID J. SOLIMA

Session August 19, 2014.

Appeal from the Circuit Court for Williamson County No. 04229 Timothy L. Easter, Judge.

Connie Reguli and Julia Shaver, Brentwood, Tennessee, for the appellant, David J. Solima.

Lawrence J. Kamm, Nashville, Tennessee (at oral argument), John J. Hollins, Jr. and Sarah Richter Perky, Nashville, Tennessee (on brief), for the appellee, Stephanie J. Solima.

W. Neal McBrayer, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Frank G. Clement, Jr., P.J., M.S., and Richard H. Dinkins, J., joined.

OPINION

W. NEAL McBRAYER, JUDGE.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

Stephanie Solima ("Mother") and David Solima ("Father") were divorced in 2006. They have one son. The parties' post-divorce proceedings regarding child support and the terms of their parenting plan have been particularly contentious. After several unsuccessful iterations, the parties agreed to a detailed parenting plan in 2009.

Under that plan, Mother was the primary residential parent and had all major decision-making authority. Mother had 255 days a year of parenting time, and Father had the remaining 110 days. Father exercised his parenting time every other week from Thursday evening to Sunday evening. If a holiday or other "school-free day" fell on a Monday or Friday, the holiday or school-free day was awarded to the parent who had the child for that particular weekend. Mother had parenting time with the child every fall break, and the parties alternated spring break visitation. Mother and Father evenly shared winter vacation each year. The parties also shared summer vacation, alternating two-week periods of parenting time until school began. Despite the plan's detail, the parties continued to have serious disagreements regarding visitation.

On August 2, 2011, Mother filed an emergency petition to return the child to her custody, to modify the parenting plan, and for criminal contempt. Between September and October 2011, Father filed five pleadings requesting a modification of the parenting plan as well as two petitions for criminal contempt against Mother. On October 31, 2011, the trial court denied or dismissed all of Father's pleadings. Then, on February 15, 2012, Father filed an amended answer to Mother's August 2, 2011 petition and a counter-petition for modification of the parenting plan and criminal contempt. Throughout 2012 and early 2013, the parties continued to engage in visitation and discovery disputes.

On March 26, 2013, Mother filed an amended petition to modify the parenting plan and criminal contempt. Mother also filed a proposed parenting plan. The proposed plan had several similarities to the 2009 plan. The residential parenting schedule and day-to-day schedule remained the same, and Mother retained all major decision-making authority. The proposed changes would: (1) rather than alternating two week periods of parenting time throughout summer vacation, alternate two-week periods of visitation from June 1 to July 30; (2) remove references to "school-free days"; (3) change the holiday schedule so that the parent who had residential time the preceding weekend would have the child on the holiday; (4) change return times from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.; (5) add Father's Day visitation for Father; (6) allow the parents to communicate by methods other than e-mail in case of an emergency; and (7) add a statement reserving Mother's right to make a claim against Father's estate for any unpaid child support obligations or medical expenses.

The trial court conducted a hearing on Mother's petition and Father's counter-petition to modify the parenting plan on March 26 and 27, 2013. Only Mother and Father testified at the hearing. Father did not file a proposed parenting plan.[1] Instead, he outlined requested changes at the hearing, asking the court to: (1) increase Father's parenting time to 129 days; (2) change the parties' meeting location to the Brentwood Library; (3) change Mother's Day and Father's Day visitation to Saturday at 5:00 p.m. through Sunday at 5:00 p.m.; (4) change Thanksgiving visitation to end at 5:00 p.m. the day before school resumes; (5) extend Father's visitation on the child's birthday to 7:30 p.m.; (6) grant Father fall break in odd years; (7) grant Father additional visitation with the child one school night a week; (8) grant Father major decision-making authority for education and extracurricular activities; (9) have Child Support Services manage child support payments; (10) apportion health and dental expenses by income; (11) reduce life insurance requirements to $50, 000 per parent; and (12) have mediation costs assessed by the mediator.

At the conclusion of the hearing, Mother requested an award of her attorneys' fees incurred in responding to Father's requests to modify the parenting plan. In response, the court stated from the bench:

I deny the request today based on my previous rulings but I will remember this, should I ever be faced with the two of you again in another hearing, and the difficulty that I'm having in denying the request for attorney's fees to [Mother].

In an order entered April 8, 2013, the court denied both petitions for criminal contempt. The order also adopted a new parenting plan, but contained very few findings of fact. The order states, in relevant part:

3. The parties and the Court agree that modification of the June 22, 2009 Permanent Parenting Plan is warranted pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-6-101(2)(B). The Court further finds that the modification of the June 22, 2009 Permanent Parenting Plan is in the best interests of the minor child.
4. That the Permanent Parenting Plan attached hereto as Exhibit A shall become the Order of this Court and the child support shall be established as set forth herein. The Court further finds that pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-6-404 the attached Permanent Parenting Plan is in the best interest of the minor child.

5. [Mother's] Petition to Modify the June 22, 2009 Permanent Parenting Plan shall be dismissed.

6. [Father's] Petition to Modify the June 22, 2009 Permanent Parenting Plan and his Petition to Modify Child Support shall both be dismissed.
7. Both parents shall complete the online www.uptoparenting.org class within sixty (60) days of the ...

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