Session Date: December 09, 2014
Appeal from the Chancery Court for Montgomery County No. MCCHCVDI05459 Laurence M. McMillan, Jr., Chancellor
Christopher J. Pittman and S. Allison Winters, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Barbara Jean Blake.
Stacy A. Turner, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Russell Alan Blake.
Andy D. Bennett, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Frank G. Clement, Jr., P.J., M.S., and Richard H. Dinkins, J., joined.
ANDY D. BENNETT, JUDGE
Factual and Procedural Background
After a fifteen-year marriage, Barbara Jean Blake ("Mother") and Russell Alan Blake ("Father") were divorced by final decree entered on March 28, 2006. The parties have two children, a son (born in 1995) and a daughter (born in 1998). The divorce decree incorporated a marital dissolution agreement and permanent parenting plan which named Mother the primary residential parent of the parties' two minor children.
In January 2010, Mother wrote Father a letter stating that she intended to move to Boulder City, Nevada to marry Kevin Cost and that she planned to take the children with her. On February 12, 2010, Father filed a Petition for Contempt and in Opposition of Relocation of the Minor Children. The trial court entered an agreed order on August 23, 2010, stating that the parties' son would reside with Father and that the parties' daughter would relocate to Nevada with Mother. On January 21, 2011, the trial court entered an amended permanent parenting plan and an addendum to the parenting plan reflecting that, inter alia, Mother was the primary residential parent of the parties' daughter and Father was the primary residential parent of the parties' son. The addendum also required Father to maintain health and dental insurance on both children until Mother obtained employment.
The parties' son reached the age of majority and graduated from high school in May 2013. Thereafter, Mother filed a Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act ("UCCJEA") in the Family Division of the District Court for Clark County, Nevada ("Nevada court"), asserting that Nevada was her daughter's "home state" and must exercise jurisdiction in all matters related to custody. Mother also registered and filed the January 21, 2011 permanent parenting plan and addendum as a "foreign judgment" with the Nevada court. The Nevada court held a hearing on September 3, 2013, at which Mother appeared in person and Chancellor McMillan of the Montgomery County, Tennessee Chancery Court appeared telephonically. Father did not participate in the hearing despite the fact that he was served with notice. The Nevada court entered an order on September 12, 2013 finding that "Chancellor McMillan advised Tennessee was an inconvenient forum and relinquished jurisdiction of the case to Nevada." The court further held, "the home state of the minor child . . . is Nevada, and therefore pursuant to UCCJEA, NRS 125A.385 et al., Nevada must exercise exclusive jurisdiction over the minor[.]"
On January 8, 2014, Mother filed a petition for contempt in the Chancery Court for Montgomery County, Tennessee ("chancery court") requesting the court to hold Father in criminal contempt for his failure to: (1) pay the debt owing on the parties' credit card as required by the final decree of divorce; (2) take a parenting class as required by the amended parenting plan; (3) maintain health insurance on the parties' daughter until Mother obtained employment that provided health insurance as required by the "addendum to parenting plan, paragraph C"; (4) provide any proof by his accountant that would justify him claiming the parties' son on his taxes as required by the amended parenting plan; and (5) provide proof of his income as required by the amended parenting plan. Mother also requested that the amount of Father's child support be recalculated. On February 26, 2014, Father filed an answer and counter-petition for contempt alleging that Mother interfered with his visitation with the parties' daughter. Mother filed a motion to dismiss Father's counter-petition for contempt, asserting that the issues Father raised in his counter-petition were more properly addressed in Nevada pursuant to the Nevada court's September 12, 2013 order.
The trial court held a hearing on Mother's motion to dismiss Father's counter-petition and held, sua sponte, that both Mother's petition for contempt and Father's counter-petition for contempt should be dismissed. The court held, in its order entered May 7, 2014, that:
The Court, on its own motion, has determined that since all parties have attorneys in Nevada and there is current litigation in Nevada regarding visitation with the parties' minor daughter, the Nevada litigation is appropriate to address all issues and disputes between the parties, including disputes over allegations that a party failed to comply with terms set forth in the Final Decree of Divorce and issues of child support for the parties' minor child. . . . [T]he Nevada Court can address all issues between the parties.
Mother appeals, asserting the trial court erred in finding that Nevada had jurisdiction to address all issues ...