November 2, 2016 Session
from the Juvenile Court for Robertson County No. 12-34800
Joel Perry, Judge
appeal requires us to interpret a version of a juvenile court
statute effective prior to July 1, 2016. A juvenile court
magistrate held a hearing on competing petitions to modify a
parenting plan filed by a child's parents. The magistrate
announced her ruling from the bench at the conclusion of the
hearing but did not enter a written order until several days
later. Mother, dissatisfied with the magistrate's ruling,
filed a request for a rehearing before a juvenile court
judge. Mother filed her request within five days of the entry
of the magistrate's order but ten days after the hearing
before the magistrate. The juvenile court concluded that
mother's request for rehearing was untimely and confirmed
the magistrate's findings and recommendations as an order
of the juvenile court. Because we conclude that the time for
requesting a rehearing ran from the entry of the
magistrate's written order, mother's request for
rehearing was timely. Therefore, we reverse.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Juvenile
Court Reversed and Case Remanded
Terrance E. McNabb, Pleasant View, Tennessee, for the
appellant, Tiffany Dotson.
E. Evans, Springfield, Tennessee, for the appellee, Michael
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.
NEAL McBRAYER, JUDGE.
Factual and Procedural Background
Dotson ("Mother") and Michael Allen Sprouse
("Father") are the parents of a child. On January
5, 2015, a magistrate of the Juvenile Court of Robertson
County, Tennessee, held a hearing on separate petitions
related to the child: a petition for civil contempt and
modification of parenting plan filed by Father and a
counter-petition to modify parenting plan and child support
filed by Mother. Although there is no transcript in the
record from the hearing, Mother and Father agree that the
magistrate announced her ruling from the bench and directed
Father's counsel to prepare a proposed written order.
January 14, 2016, the magistrate signed a written order
containing her findings and recommendations. The magistrate
found a material change of circumstance had occurred that
warranted a change in the existing parenting plan for the
child. In light of the material change of circumstance, the
magistrate named Father the primary residential parent of the
child and adopted Father's proposed parenting plan. The
magistrate also ordered Mother to pay child support in
accordance with the child support guidelines.
addition to the ruling, the order contained language in bold
type above the magistrate's signature. The language
included the following statements:
Pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 37-1-107, this becomes an
order of the Juvenile Court if an appeal is not filed within
five (5) days, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and legal
holidays, from the date this order is entered. This order may
be appealed to the Juvenile Court Judge by filing a request
for rehearing with the Juvenile Court Clerk within said five
(5) day period.
after the magistrate signed the order, Mother filed a pro se
request for rehearing and motion to set. In making her
request, she used a form provided for that purpose by the
juvenile court. The form included a section entitled
"NOTICE to Requestor of ...