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Nunnally v. Nunnally

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

April 28, 2017


          Assigned on Briefs March 1, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Hamilton County No. 15-D-1419 L. Marie Williams, Judge

         In this divorce action, Wife appeals the trial court's designation of Husband as the primary residential parent for their daughter. For his part, Husband contends the trial court erred by awarding Wife unsupervised visitation. He also contends the child support award is based on an erroneous determination of the parties' gross monthly income. Finding no error, we affirm.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit Court Affirmed.

          Alan R. Beard, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jade C. Nunnally.

          J. Christopher Clem, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellee, Adam Nunnally.

          Frank G. Clement, Jr., P.J., M.S., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Thomas R. Frierson, II and Brandon O. Gibson, JJ., joined.


          FRANK G. CLEMENT, JR., P.J., M.S.

         Adam Nunnally ("Husband") and Jade Nunnally ("Wife") married on March 30, 2013. They are the parents of one child, a daughter born in April of 2015. Three months after the birth of their daughter, Wife filed for divorce and proposed a parenting plan that allowed Husband no visitation with their child. Husband filed an answer and submitted a proposed parenting plan designating him as the primary residential parent and limiting Wife's parenting time to supervised visitation. The relevant history of the parties is set forth below.

         In 2008, five years prior to the marriage, Wife succumbed to the stress of a rigorous nursing school program and began to experience severe depression, anxiety, mood swings, and insomnia. Fearing for Wife's safety, her mother took her to the emergency room where medical personnel observed Wife engaged in what we describe as bizarre behavior that justified admitting Wife to a psychiatric hospital.[1] Dr. Vijayalakshmi Appareddy, a psychiatrist, diagnosed Wife with bipolar disorder with psychosis. Dr. Appareddy prescribed psychotropic medications, which significantly improved her mood, and she was discharged from the hospital with the recommendation that she continue psychiatric monitoring.

         Wife did not believe she needed medications and stopped taking them. Less than three years later, in February 2011, she was again admitted to the psychiatric facility due to the intervention of her parents. According to the facility's records, Wife entered the hospital "cussing and screaming at parents and staff." The record stated that she exhibited irrational thinking, bizarre behaviors, "flight of ideas, " and "pressured speech." Wife resumed her medication regimen, and, as a result, she improved and was discharged.

         In March of 2013, Wife required a third hospitalization. She told Dr. Appareddy that she had difficulty coping with the stress related to her impending marriage to Husband and suffered from mood swings, insomnia, and a fear that she would die. Dr. Appareddy also testified that, at times during her treatment, Wife complained about her father being, inter alia, "emotionally abusive." She stopped seeing Dr. Appareddy as of May 23, 2013, against her recommendation that she continue psychiatric treatment. Dr. Appareddy noted that Wife's diagnosis was on-going and that she had a "[l]ong history of noncompliance with medications and poor insight into her problems."

         Shortly after being discharged from the hospital, the parties married. Two years later, Wife gave birth to the couple's only child. Initially, Wife stayed home with the baby, and Husband worked. In their text messages to one another, Wife and Husband consistently showed concern and affection for their new baby. They traded messages about the baby's doctor's appointments, nap schedule, and growth spurts. At the same time, Wife sent Husband numerous text messages in which she expressed frustration with being the child's primary caregiver. Wife sent messages to Husband stating that she had "gone insane, " had "reached [her] breaking point, " and that she could not "do this all day long and night with [zero] breaks." Moreover, Wife often admonished Husband for working late and for failing to adequately assist her with the baby's care. She also complained that she did not have time to shower, to eat, or to otherwise take care of her physical and emotional needs. However, at other times, Wife effusively praised Husband for his assistance with the baby. For example, Husband received text messages from Wife telling him that he was "doing such an awesome job" and that their baby was "beyond lucky" to have him as her father.

         In addition to complaints about Husband's lack of support, Wife seemed distressed about her parents and their lack of support. Husband received text messages from Wife in early June of 2015 that reflected Wife's irritation with her mother. One of the messages contained the following: "My mom doesn't like babysitting and I usually have to beg her to watch [the baby] for [one] hour while info [sic] to the store. I have to beg her. . . . I've been telling her we have no food here and she still won't help me." Wife's text messages also indicated that she and her parents often argued. Husband expressed concern about the turmoil and its effect on their daughter, and he sent Wife a text message stating, "Please don't yell around [the baby]."

         Sometimes Wife's text messages concerning her parents went beyond mere complaints about their lack of support. In many of her messages to Husband, Wife expressed fear over leaving the child with her parents. One of the messages from Wife contained the following: "[T]hey smoke [three] packs a day of cigs and my dad carried [the baby] around the other day after he had been drinking. . . . Plus, I'm afraid of my dad . . . ." To the contrary, Wife praised Husband's parents in her messages to Husband. Husband received messages from Wife telling him that he had "an awesome family, " that his family was "100% better" than hers, and that his family was one of the reasons why she married him. Despite Wife's assertions that her family provided no support, her text messages to Husband indicated that her mother and her mother-in-law frequently babysat so that Wife could run errands and, generally, have time to herself. In one of the messages sent to Husband, Wife writes: "Your mom . . . just left with [the baby] for a few hours. I'm going to clean the house and to get my hair done." She also writes, "[My mother] hates babysitting. I stayed gone for [six] hours or whatever and it was 'too long.'"

         In late June and early July of 2015, Wife had several emotional outbursts. In one text message, she threatened to keep Husband from seeing their child, "Have fun with your losers you associate with. Your daughter won't even know who you are!" She also expressed annoyance with Husband's dog and his fish tank, stating: "Omg!!! Your gonna have to do something about this dog! He's barked all day and has woken her up!!!!! . . . Also the fish tank is too damn loud and I'm tired of listening to it all day!!!!!!!!!!!! . . . You have by tomorrow to fix these problems." Two days later, Wife informed Husband that she had killed his fish, "The fish are gone!!!!!!! Bye fish!!!!!!! Payback is a BITCH!!!!!" Husband responded to Wife by suggesting she seek psychological help: "You need to admit yourself into the hospital tonight. Your actions have shown that you are not in the right frame of mind." Wife's mother also sent text messages to Husband around that time, expressing concern for Wife's mental and emotional well-being. In one text message she wrote, "I pray [Wife] will want to get the help she desperately needs. We are all heartbroken over this. We are a hundred percent behind [Husband]."

         On July 15, 2015, Wife filed for divorce and requested a restraining order against Husband, alleging that Husband removed their child from her care for three days and refused to allow her to see the child. She also alleged that he changed the locks on their home, "had the utilities turned off, " and withdrew money from their bank account, which left Wife with only $200 to care for herself and their child. She submitted a proposed parenting plan that allowed Husband no visitation with their daughter. The court granted the restraining order.

         Husband counterclaimed for divorce and submitted a proposed parenting plan that designated him as the primary residential parent and limited Wife's parenting time to supervised visits. He also filed a motion to dissolve the restraining order, alleging that Wife, not Husband, changed the locks and vandalized the home. The court dissolved the restraining order and created a temporary parenting schedule.

         The divorce proceeded to trial on April 5, 2016. At trial, Wife denied her diagnosis of bipolar disorder with psychosis and denied that she needed psychotropic medications. Wife claimed that, prior to the divorce action, Husband worked 12-hour days, would not prepare the baby's bottles, and abused alcohol. When confronted with her text messages praising Husband for his involvement in their child's care, she dismissed those messages saying, "He must have finally changed a diaper by himself and fixed a bottle…. I had to beg him to watch her so I could take a shower." She also testified that, while the divorce was pending and Husband had time with the baby, he cared for the child in an incompetent manner. According to Wife, Husband had four bottles for the child, none of which were the correct size, and he didn't thoroughly wash the bottles. She further testified that Husband did not own a highchair and that he let the child play with Q-tips. Wife also claimed that Husband owned a "vicious" dog and a gun. Moreover, Wife testified that Husband often picked their daughter up late for his parenting time, and she admitted that she threatened to penalize him for being more than 15 minutes late by not allowing him to have their daughter at all on those days. Wife testified that, unlike Husband, she took "great care" of their daughter: "I do everything for her. I take her to church. I take her to the park, the mall. I buy her clothes. I cook for her. I signed her up for the Book of the Month Club."

         Wife testified that she worked approximately 24 hours a week making $24.35 an hour as a nurse at the psychiatric hospital where she was once a patient. She testified that she previously had a full-time job making $5, 000 a year more than her current salary, but that she quit so she could spend more time with the child. She only worked when her daughter was sleeping or when Husband had her, so the child would never know she was gone. She said her parents watched the baby while she was at work, and, contrary to her text messages, she had high praise for her parents, "I love my father very much. He's great with [the child]. . . . [My mother's] helped me a lot." She claimed that the disparaging text messages about her parents resulted from arguments, and that she did not mean anything she said. Also, despite text messages that indicated otherwise, Wife claimed that Husband's family cared very little for their granddaughter and saw the baby rarely and only at their convenience.

         When Wife's mother testified, she denied the text messages sent from her phone that expressed serious concern for Wife's mental and emotional well-being, claiming that one of her daughters wrote the messages without her knowledge. She also denied Wife's diagnosis, explaining that she only took Wife to the emergency room in 2008 because Wife was having trouble sleeping. Wife's mother testified that Wife lived with her and with Wife's father and that Wife was coping well. Contrary to Wife's text messages about her father, Wife's mother testified that he did not have an alcohol problem and was never ...

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