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Halim v. El-Alayli

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

April 28, 2017


          Session January 18, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Williamson County No. 08431 Deanna B. Johnson, Judge

         This is a post-divorce child support modification case. Ola Halim filed a petition against her former husband, Tarek G. El-Alayli, seeking an increase in child support based upon a material change in circumstances. The parties' final divorce decree had incorporated a permanent parenting plan setting child support at $3, 000 per month. The day before the hearing on the petition, mother filed a request for relief seeking an upward deviation in child support for the specific needs of one of the children; a special needs trust for that child; and an educational trust for another one of the parties' children. Following the hearing, the trial court entered an order setting monthly child support at $4, 009 and denying mother's other requests. Mother appeals. We affirm.

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

          J. Timothy Street, Franklin, Tennessee, for the appellant, Ola Halim.

          Cathy Speers Johnson, Franklin, Tennessee, for the appellee, Tarek G. El-Alayli.

          Charles D. Susano, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Andy d. Bennett and W. Neal McBrayer, JJ., joined.





         Mother and father are the parents of three children, Sammy, Maggie, and Dina. Sammy and Maggie have both reached majority. Maggie suffers from severe autism. Mother and father were appointed co-conservators of Maggie by the Williamson County Chancery Court. The conservatorship order provides the following:

[Mother] shall have the sole authority to make decisions regarding the educational planning, the type and quantity of intervention Maggie shall receive, the services she receives from any applicable agency and/or provider, daily care outside of the home and her day to day programming. . . . [Mother] shall make these planning and programming decisions based solely on Maggie's needs and what is in her best interest. [Mother] shall act reasonably and prudently in this regard and this authority is not intended to have the effect of dictating the financial or support obligations to be provided by [father] . . . .

         In the original divorce litigation in the trial court, the parties agreed on a permanent parenting plan that designated mother as the primary residential parent. The plan called for father to pay monthly child support of $3, 000. The $3, 000 figure included basic child support of $2, 191 and an upward deviation of $809 due to the special needs of Maggie. On August 3, 2010, the trial court entered a final divorce decree incorporating the parties' plan.

         On April 11, 2014, mother filed a document entitled "petition to set child support." In her petition, she asked the court to set an appropriate amount of child support based upon "the material change in circumstance resulting from the increase in father's income, the emancipation of one of their children, and the special needs of their severely disabled child . . . ." The day before the hearing on the petition, mother filed a document titled "notice of request of relief sought." In this pleading, she requested the following monthly amounts: (1) $2, 100 in child support for Dina; (2) $150 for Dina's cheerleading expenses; (3) $1, 533 in special education for Maggie; (4) $350 as an allowance for spending money for Maggie; (5) $30 for a camp for Maggie to attend; (6) $330 for food for Maggie; (7) $185 representing one third of the utilities for Maggie; (8) $250 for vacation for Maggie; and (9) $714 representing one third of the mortgage for housing for Maggie. These requests total $5, 642 per month. Additionally, mother requested that father be obligated to pay $2, 000 per month into an educational trust for Dina and $2, 000 per month into a special needs trust for Maggie. In total, mother requested $9, 642 per month.


         On November 12, 2015, the trial court entered an order on mother's petition. The court made the following findings:

Father has paid his full support obligation in a timely manner each month since the entry of the Final Decree of Divorce.
When Sammy El-Alalyi emancipated, [f]ather continued paying the child support of $3, 000[] per month, which was the rate for all three children. Father did not file a Petition to reduce his support.
The negotiated Parenting Plan did not obligate [f]ather to pay for any of the children's college education or related expenses.
Nevertheless, [f]ather has paid all of Sammy El-Alayli's college tuition, fees, books and room & board.
Father also pays Sammy's health insurance and uncovered medical bills voluntarily and without a Court Order to do so.
The parties have shared Dina's cheerleading expenses. Father recently paid $1, 300[] for Dina's cheerleading at Brentwood High School.
In the Fall of 2015, Maggie will start her second of four years in the Transition Program at Brentwood High School. There is no cost for Maggie attending Brentwood High School in the Transition Program.
From the time Maggie was 2 years old until she turned 10 years of age, [m]other worked seven days per week at the Son-Rise Program for Autism, in the parties' home. This work made [m]other very qualified to work with Maggie on socialization exercises and communication.
Mother works on a part-time basis as an interpreter. She earned approximately $10, 000[] in 2014, with this part-time work.
Jackie Batey has been Maggie's childcare provider since 2008.
Jackie Batey charges $15[] per hour to care for Maggie. The $809 per month upward deviation that was agreed to at the divorce equates to 53.93 hours of additional care for Maggie each month.
Mother hires Jackie Batey to get Maggie off the school bus every Monday and Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. Then, Jackie keeps Maggie until 6:00 p.m.
On Mondays, Ms. Batey takes Maggie to the Williamson County Recreation Center to participate in a group activity from 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
On Wednesdays, Ms. Batey and Maggie may go to Goodwill and shop. . . . She also loves to go shopping at Publix, Target and Kroger and likes to eat at Burger King or McDonald's.
According to Ms. Batey, there is no reason [m]other could not take Maggie to the activities she attends on Monday and Wednesday afternoons.
Mother is at home without children while Maggie and Dina are in school from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Father gets Maggie every Tuesday and Thursday at 3:30 p.m. and keeps Maggie until 7:30 p.m.
Father has Maggie on alternate weekends from Friday at 3:00 p.m. to Sunday at 6:00 p.m. . . .
The $809[] upward deviation that [f]ather now pays would cover Ms. Batey's current care on Mondays and Wednesdays from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. each week and nine (9) hours[1] of care on those alternate weekends ...

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