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Potts v. Conatser

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

January 26, 2017

STEPHANIE N. POTTS
v.
TONY CONATSER

          Session: August 18, 2016

         Appeal from the Juvenile Court for Montgomery County No. 08JV537, 08JV538 Tim Barnes, Judge

         Father appeals the modification of a parenting plan, which changed the designation of primary residential parent to Mother and decreased Father's parenting time. We vacate the judgment and remand the case for entry of factual findings in accordance with Tenn. R. Civ. P. 52.01.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Juvenile Court Vacated; Case Remanded.

          Adrienne Gilliam Fry, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Tony Conatser.

          James R. Potter, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Stephanie Potts.

          Richard H. Dinkins, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Andy D. Bennett and W. Neal McBrayer, JJ., joined.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION [1]

          RICHARD H. DINKINS, JUDGE

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Tony Conatser ("Father") and Stephanie Potts ("Mother") are the parents of twins who were born in 2002. On April 2, 2009, the court adopted a parenting plan which designated Father as primary residential parent, with each parent spending 182 ½ days of parenting time with the children. On August 16, 2013, Mother filed a petition to modify the plan, asserting that the plan was no longer workable for various reasons and requesting, inter alia, that her proposed parenting plan be adopted and that child support be modified. Father answered and filed a counter petition, asserting that there was a material change of circumstances sufficient to warrant a modification of the residential schedule; that Mother was willfully unemployed and in contempt of the order entered April 2, 2009; and requesting that his proposed plan be adopted.

         Trial on the petitions was held on May 11, 2015; after hearing the proof and interviewing the children, the court made a ruling from the bench, to take effect in two days, in which it, inter alia, designated Mother as primary residential parent; set Mother's income at $8.75 per hour for a 40 hour week and Father's income at $41, 460.40 per year according to his 2014 W-2 and an additional $900 per year from a fireworks stand he operated; adjusted Father's parenting time to six out of every fourteen days; and set a schedule for holiday visitation. On September 30, 2015, the court entered an order, entitled "Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, " in which it made findings relative to the factors at Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-6-106(a) and adopted "[t]he Permanent Parenting Plan effective May 13, 2015."[2] The September 30 order was amended on December 1 in a document styled "Amended Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law" to order that Father pay Mother $100.00 in attorney's fees.

         Father appeals, contending that the court erred in changing the designation of primary residential parent and in reducing his parenting time.

         II. Standard of Review

         In considering modifications to parenting plans, courts are to engage in a two-part analysis. The court must first determine whether a material change in circumstance has occurred since the previous order. Burnett v. Burnett, No. M2014-00833-COA-R3-CV, 2015 WL 5157489, at *6 (Tenn. Ct. App. Aug. 31, 2015) (citing Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-6-101(a)(2)(B); Armbrister v. Armbrister, 414 S.W.3d 685, 697-98 (Tenn. 2013)). If so, then the court proceeds to determine whether a modification is in the best interest of the children. Id. (citing Ar ...


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