Session Date October 22, 2014
Appeal from the Chancery Court for Williamson County No. 40477 Timothy L. Easter, Chancellor
Brad W. Hornsby and Heather G. Parker, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellant, Troy Broadrick.
Deana C. Hood, Franklin, Tennessee, for the appellee, Jennifer Broadrick.
W. Neal McBrayer, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Frank G. Clement, Jr., P.J., M.S., and Brandon O. Gibson, J., joined.
W. NEAL McBRAYER, JUDGE
I. Factual and Procedural Background
Troy Broadrick ("Father") and Jennifer Broadrick ("Mother"), who were divorced in Kentucky in 2009, have one child together. While still living in Kentucky, the parties entered into an agreed order on May 19, 2011 ("Kentucky order"). The Kentucky order included a shared parenting schedule, which gave each parent seven days of parenting time out of a fourteen-day period. Father worked on a rotating schedule, so the parties were required to coordinate a new itinerary every six weeks. The Kentucky order also addressed the parents' intent to move to the greater Nashville, Tennessee area. Both parties relocated to Tennessee in 2011. Mother initially moved to Thompson's Station, and then to Spring Hill, where the child was eventually enrolled in school. Father first moved to Gallatin, and then relocated to Berry Hill in 2012.
On December 16, 2011, Mother filed a petition to register a foreign decree and to modify the Kentucky order in the Williamson County Chancery Court. Mother alleged that there had been a material change in circumstance that required a change in parenting time. She claimed Father had an unpredictable work schedule, often outsourced his parenting responsibilities to his parents, and lived over one hour away from Mother and the child's school. Mother also claimed that the lack of a set parenting schedule created inconsistency for the child.
Following Mother's request for specific visitation, the trial court entered a temporary parenting schedule on March 6, 2012. This order provided that the parents would exercise parenting time for alternating seven-consecutive-day periods. On May 21, 2013, the trial court entered an order confirming its jurisdiction "over any matters involving the minor child as long as the minor child continues to reside in the State of Tennessee."
Both Mother and Father submitted proposed parenting plans in July 2013. Father's proposed parenting plan allocated 182.5 days of parenting time to each parent, which would be exercised in alternating seven-consecutive-day periods. Father did not propose a primary residential parent designation but did propose joint decision-making authority. Mother's proposed parenting plan named herself as the primary residential parent and granted her 253 days and Father 112 days of parenting time. Mother's proposal had Father exercising parenting time every other Sunday at 6:30 p.m. until Tuesday at 6:30 p.m., and in the alternate weeks, every Monday after school until Tuesday morning before school. Mother's plan also proposed joint decision-making authority.
On July 19, 2013, the trial court held a hearing on Mother's petition to modify the Kentucky order. Mother testified that Father had an erratic work schedule, which made scheduling parenting time and the child's extra-curricular activities very difficult. In fact, she claimed to be unable to coordinate with Father the seven-day periods required by the Kentucky order. Mother stated that Father's work schedule meant the child spent a majority of Father's parenting time with his paternal grandparents, which she maintained was not in his best interest. Mother was also concerned that the child spent too much time in the car traveling because of how far Father lived from the child's school and Mother's home. She claimed the child spent up to an hour each way driving from Father's home to school. Finally, Mother testified that the child has his own bedroom at her home and a half-sibling who also lived at Mother's home.
Father argued that Mother's petition amounted to a request for modification of custody because the Kentucky order did not designate a primary residential parent. Father testified that his work schedule sometimes required him to work evenings and weekends. When he worked late or on the weekends, his parents cared for the child at their home. Father admitted that when he worked late, he and the child frequently spent the night at his parents' home to avoid more driving time in the car. However, Father maintained that the commute from his home to the child's school or Mother's home was only "about 30 minutes." He stated that he tried to make the commute time "productive" by talking with the child or having the child read aloud. At both Father's home and the paternal grandparents' home, Father and the child shared a bedroom. Father claimed that the temporary parenting plan ordered by the trial court had worked well and that the child's best interests were served by spending equal time with his parents.
In its October 24, 2013 order, the trial court granted Mother's petition to modify. The trial court found that there had been a material change of circumstance under Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-6-101(a)(2)(C) based on the child's age and the parents' inability to coordinate a parenting schedule under the Kentucky order. When the Kentucky order was entered, the child was five. At the time the trial court ruled, the child was seven. The trial court concluded that the child now had more opportunities for extracurricular activities and that the original order "was not working." The parties agreed that the child should remain in Williamson County Schools, and the court stated that the child should remain in the southern part of the county, where Mother lived, to avoid disruption to the child.
The trial court adopted Mother's proposed parenting plan with only a few modifications. Under the new parenting plan, the court granted Father 119 days and Mother 246 days. The parties retained joint decision-making authority, but the plan designated Mother as the primary residential parent. Father was granted parenting time every other Sunday at 6:30 p.m. until Wednesday morning at school drop-off In the alternate week, Father would have parenting time on Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. until Wednesday morning at school drop-off The parties were granted alternating two-week periods of parenting time during summer break and equal parenting time during Christmas break. The court made other minor changes regarding life insurance and parenting education requirements.
The court found that the new parenting plan was in the child's best interest. In its order, the court stated:
[T]he Court finds that both parents are good parents. The character of both these parents is strong. The love and affection that these parents have for [the child] is unquestioned.
The physical surroundings and environment, at least at this time, favors Mother. The child has a half-brother at Mother's home. Although it is not determinative, the Court finds that it is an appropriate consideration.
The child's performance in the school system is positive.
There is nothing in the record that supports that either parent is unable to financially provide for the child's needs.
The child is of an age now where his activities and extracurricular school events are in Williamson County, Tennessee ...