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Cremeens v. Cremeens

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

April 29, 2015

LESLIE ANN CREMEENS
v.
ERIC SCOTT CREMEENS

Session Date: January 20, 2015

Appeal from the Circuit Court for White County No. CC2374 Amy V. Hollars, Judge.

D. Michael Kress, II, Sparta, Tennessee, for the appellant, Leslie Ann Cremeens.

Mark E. Tribble, Cookeville, Tennessee for the appellee, Eric Scott Cremeens.

Jason F. Hicks, Cookeville, Tennessee, Guardian Ad Litem.

Frank G. Clement, Jr., P.J., M.S., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Andy D. Bennett and Richard H. Dinkins, JJ., joined.

OPINION

FRANK G. CLEMENT, JR., JUDGE

In March 2011, Leslie Ann Cremeens ("Mother") and Eric Scott Cremeens ("Father") were divorced by order of the Superior Court of Floyd County, Georgia ("Georgia court"). The Georgia court adopted a permanent parenting plan for the parties' minor child ("the child"), and Mother was designated the primary residential parent. Soon thereafter, Mother and the child moved to White County, Tennessee while Father moved to Versailles, Kentucky.

In August 2012, Mother filed a "Petition to Assume Jurisdiction and to Modify Permanent Parenting Plan" in White County, Tennessee.[1] The child was five years old at that time. Mother sought to modify the parenting plan because the child had begun attending kindergarten and the current visitation schedule would require him to miss school. Father responded with a counter-petition seeking to be designated the primary residential parent. In April 2013, the trial court appointed a guardian ad litem for the child.

The trial occurred over two days in August 2013; however, our knowledge of the proceedings is limited because the record does not contain a transcript of the evidence or a statement of the evidence. Based on the briefs, orders, and other materials in the record, it appears the trial court heard the testimony of Mother, Father, and the child and admitted into evidence the deposition of Dr. Roy Bilbrey, a psychologist who met with the child several times shortly before trial.

At the conclusion of the trial, the court found that a material change in circumstances had been proven because, inter alia, Mother and the child had relocated to Tennessee, Father had married and moved to Kentucky, and the child had begun attending school in White County, Tennessee, all of which made the existing parenting plan unworkable.

The trial court also found that it was in the child's best interest to designate Father as the primary residential parent. While Mother had been the child's primary caregiver for nearly all of the child's life and had provided for his physical needs, the trial court found that Mother had failed to provide the child with an appropriate psychological and emotional environment. The trial court also found that the child felt responsible for Mother's well-being and that, based on the child's testimony, the child could not tell the guardian ad litem the truth because Mother "might get mad or sad about things." Further, the trial court found that Mother had encouraged and instructed the child to lie about Father to one of the child's prior psychologists, Dr. Elizabeth Hudson in Georgia, and to the guardian ad litem, which the court found constituted psychological abuse of the child. In assessing the parties' willingness to facilitate the child's relationship with the other parent, the trial court found that Mother had "tried to scuttle" the relationship between the child and Father and Mother had withheld visitation from Father.

Thereafter, Mother filed a motion for the trial court to amend its findings or grant a new trial based, in part, on the fact the trial court had not heard testimony from Dr. Elizabeth Hudson of Rome, Georgia, who has served as a counselor to the child. The trial court denied the motion in December 2013, and this appeal followed.

Mother appeals contending the trial court erred by failing to consider the testimony of Dr. Bilbrey and failing to direct the guardian ad litem to investigate the findings of Dr. Hudson, the child's prior psychologist in Georgia. Mother contends the guardian ad litem had a duty to investigate Dr. Hudson's records and call her as a witness even in the absence of an order from the trial court. Mother also challenges the new parenting schedule, contending the trial court erred by failing to equitably balance ...


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