Session November 2, 2016
from the Circuit Court for Davidson County No. 14D-1210
Philip E. Smith, Judge
appeals the trial court's designation of Mother as the
primary residential parent for their daughter. Applying the
factors in Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-6-106(a) to the
testimony, the trial court determined, inter alia,
that Mother acted as the primary caregiver, formed a stronger
emotional bond with the child, and showed a greater
willingness to foster a relationship between the child and
Father. Following a thorough review of the record, we have
determined that the trial court correctly identified and
properly applied the relevant legal principles and that the
evidence does not preponderate against the trial court's
findings of fact. Accordingly, we affirm the trial
court's decision to make Mother the primary residential
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit
B. Langford, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Daniel
J. Hollins, Jr. and Sarah Richter Perky, Franklin, Tennessee,
for the appellee, Bettina Luise Engh.
G. Clement, Jr., P.J., M.S., delivered the opinion of the
Court, in which Richard H. Dinkins and W. Neal McBrayer, JJ.,
G. CLEMENT, JR., P.J., M.S.
and Father married on March 17, 2007. Shortly after the birth
of their only child on March 20, 2011, Father lost his job as
a researcher at Vanderbilt University due to lack of funding.
Mother and Father agreed that he would stay home with the
child because Mother worked as a nurse practitioner. For
approximately one year, Father took care of the child during
the day and brought the child to Mother's place of work
to breastfeed. Co-workers of Mother testified that Father
often left the child in the care of Mother beyond the time
necessary for breastfeeding, which interfered with
Mother's ability to care for her patients.
2012, Father told Mother he wanted to return to work, so she
obtained a nanny and began looking for daycare. Father worked
for approximately one week. Despite Father's
unemployment, the child began attending a daycare program in
July or August of 2012, Monday through Friday. According to
the daycare employee's testimony, Father dropped the
child off at the daycare program at 8:30 a.m. and then picked
the child up at 4:30 p.m. On April 19, 2014, Father accepted
a job and relocated to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where his
parents and extended family lived.
days after Father relocated, Mother filed for divorce
alleging irreconcilable differences and inappropriate marital
conduct. She also requested primary custody of the child.
Mother simultaneously filed a petition for a temporary
restraining order and temporary exclusive custody of the
minor child and the marital residence. The trial court
granted the petition and gave Father parenting time.
main focus of the proceedings in the trial court concerned
the designation of the child's primary residential
parent. During the proceedings, Father argued that he had
been the primary caretaker of the child while unemployed
until the time he moved to Sioux Falls. Mother argued that
Father did not act as the primary caretaker during that time
because, rather than care for the child while he was at home,
Father dropped the child off at her workplace, with a nanny,
or at daycare. The trial court found Mother more credible
than Father. Accordingly, it awarded the divorce to Mother
and designated Mother as the primary residential parent.
Father initiated this appeal challenging only the trial
court's designation of Mother as the primary residential
parent for their daughter.
non-jury case, our review is de novo on the record with a
presumption that the trial court's factual findings are
correct, unless the evidence preponderates against those
findings. Tenn. R. App. P. 13(d); Armbrister v.
Armbrister, 414 S.W.3d 685, 692 (Tenn. 2013). A trial
court's conclusions of law are ...