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Broadnax v. Lawrence

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

June 8, 2017

JESSICA MARCEL BROADNAX
v.
QUENTIN ELLIOTT LAWRENCE

          Assigned on Briefs February 2, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Hamilton County No. 11D698 J.B. Bennett, Judge

         This case is again before this Court after being remanded to the Circuit Court for Hamilton County ("the Trial Court") for a determination of whether it was in the best interest of the parties' minor child ("the Child") to relocate to New Jersey with Jessica Marcel Broadnax ("Mother"). Mother appeals the Trial Court's May 5, 2016 order upon remand, which found, inter alia, that it was in the best interest of the Child to remain with Quentin Elliott Lawrence ("Father") and not to move with Mother to New Jersey. We find and hold that the evidence in the record on appeal does not preponderate against the Trial Court's findings. Finding no error on the part of the Trial Court, we affirm.

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

          Charles G. Wright, Jr., Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jessica Marcel Broadnax.

          Jillyn O'Shaughnessy, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellee, Quentin Elliott Lawrence.

          D. MICHAEL SWINEY, C.J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which ANDY D. BENNETT and KENNY W. ARMSTRONG, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          D. MICHAEL SWINEY, CHIEF JUDGE

         Background

         Mother and Father were divorced in 2012. Their divorce decree incorporated a parenting plan for the Child designating Mother as the primary residential parent and granting Father 104 days of co-parenting time per year. In October of 2014, Mother provided Father with a notice of intent to re-locate to Pennsylvania for a possible employment opportunity. She later amended her notice to include New Jersey as another possible place for relocation based upon another employment opportunity. Father opposed the proposed relocation.

         The case was tried, and the Trial Court entered its order finding, inter alia, that Mother's proposed relocation was not for a reasonable purpose. Mother appealed to this Court. By Opinion filed on July 31, 2015, this Court affirmed the Trial Court's "determination that Mother's purpose for relocating was unreasonable . . ." and held that the Trial Court had failed to make a comprehensive best interest analysis pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-6-108(e). Lawrence v. Broadnax, E2015-00214-COA-R3-CV, 2015 WL 10319306, at **7-8 (Tenn. Ct. App. July 31, 2015), no appl. perm. appeal filed ("Lawrence v. Broadnax I"). We remanded the case to the Trial Court to make a determination about the Child's best interest in compliance with Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-6-108(e). Id. at *8.

         While Lawrence v. Broadnax I was pending in this Court, Mother relocated to New Jersey and left the Child in the care of her parents in Chattanooga. Father eventually discovered that Mother had relocated to New Jersey. Father filed a petition for an emergency order seeking, among other things, entry of a temporary order granting Father custody of the Child. The Trial Court entered an ex parte Temporary Order on February 10, 2015 ("Temporary Order"), inter alia, granting Father primary custody of the Child.

         In December of 2015, after we remanded the case to the Trial Court in Lawrence v. Broadnax I, a hearing was held, and the parties began to present evidence with regard to the best interest of the Child. Court was recessed prior to the close of proof. Before the hearing could be resumed, the Trial Court Judge, W. Neil Thomas, III, recused himself from the case, and the case was reassigned to Judge J.B. Bennett.

         A hearing was held before Judge Bennett, and the parties were instructed to present any and all proof with regard to the issue of best interest to allow the Trial Court to make necessary credibility determinations and findings in compliance with this Court's Opinion in Lawrence v. Broadnax I. The hearing before Judge Bennett was held in April of 2016. The Child was six years old at the time of the hearing and had lived with Father since entry of the February 10, 2015 Temporary Order granting Father custody.

         By way of background, Father and Mother were married in 2004, and the Child was born in 2009. At that time, the parties were living in Texas. Father testified that Mother moved from Texas to Chattanooga with the Child in October of 2010, and Father remained in Texas for approximately five more months. Father then moved to Atlanta to be closer to the Child. The parties were divorced in 2012. When the Child was approximately four years old, Father moved to Chattanooga. In 2014, Mother provided Father with notice of her intent to relocate, as discussed above.

         Father testified that after the Trial Court entered its opinion in January of 2015 finding that Mother's proposed relocation was not for a reasonable purpose, Father attempted to contact Mother to find out if she was staying in Chattanooga or moving to New Jersey. Mother did not respond to Father's inquiries. Father also tried to talk to Mother's mother and received no response. Father did not know where the Child was at that time. Mother had moved to New Jersey, and although she had primary custody, she had relinquished actual physical custody of the Child. Mother left the Child with her parents when she moved, and never notified Father that she did so. Father testified that after he found out that Mother had moved to New Jersey and the Child was staying with Mother's parents, he asked for an ex parte order granting him custody. Father testified that after entry of the Temporary Order granting Father custody, Mother contacted Father and called him "satanic" and "evil."

         Father has a bachelor's degree in business administration with a concentration in finance. He testified that he worked at BlueCross-BlueShield in customer service upon leaving college. Father then decided to go to seminary, and he left his job to move to Dallas to attend seminary. While attending seminary, Father worked as a bookkeeper and then as an adjuster at an insurance company. Father testified that "[b]ecause of the rigor of the work there due to the hours . . ." he changed jobs to work at UPS, which was more flexible. Shortly after that, Father began working at Wells Fargo in financial services for "more money." Father stated that he made these choices in order to provide for himself and Mother, who was in school at that time. Father stated: "every job that I've taken, it has been typically in financial services, with no - - really any gaps there, and actually moving up and making a higher wage rate." Father testified that he never has been fired from a job.

         Father stated that the only time he took a pay cut was when he moved from Dallas to Atlanta to be closer to the Child after the parties had separated and was paid $5, 000 less for the same position as a banker. Father explained that Mother had moved with the Child from Dallas to Chattanooga when the Child was approximately one year old, and Father had remained in Dallas until his move to Atlanta. At that time, Father was working at Wells Fargo, and there were no branches of Wells Fargo in Chattanooga to which Father could transfer.

         Father moved to Chattanooga when the Child was approximately four years old. Father testified that he was able to obtain a position as an assistant branch manager for SunTrust in Chattanooga with an increase in pay. Father testified that he is an assistant vice-president and branch manager for SunTrust Bank. He makes $60, 000 in base salary and receives bonuses. Father started this job in November of 2015. The most recent bonus Father received was for the last quarter of 2015, and was "a little over" $750. Bonuses for subsequent quarters had not yet been determined. Father anticipates remaining in this employment. Father testified that his gross income for 2015 was $49, 297. He explained that this includes the income from his previous job and the income from his current job, which he started in November of 2015.

         Father testified that when he and Mother were married in 2004, Mother had difficulty finding a job. Mother had just graduated from college at that time. Mother's first job after college was with a non-profit, and Father testified that she only worked there for a few months because "she got into a verbal altercation with her supervisor at that time." Father testified that Mother obtained another job and "basically the same thing happened." Father testified that this happened "repeatedly" and that Mother had "verbal conflicts." He testified that Mother had told him "about three occasions where she had basically left jobs where they either told her they were getting rid of her or that she needs to think about going somewhere else." Father testified that Mother has not kept him apprised about her employment situations.

         Father was asked about violence by Mother, and he stated:

[T]he whole issue with where the divorce came in and everything, when my son was barely one year old, we were at a restaurant called the Black-Eyed Pea, in Dallas, Texas, and I remember it clear as day, August 31st, 2014, maybe August 30th, but it was a Sunday - - not 2014, but 2010. We were there, and [the Child] leaned over and bit her. You know, I didn't think anything about it. He was teething. And she snapped. She was like, I can't believe he bit me. I'm going to bite him back, I'm going to bite him back. And I'm like, what are you talking about? You know, at first I thought she was kidding, but she was serious. And I said, [Mother], let's think about this. He's one, he's teething. Plus, if you bite him, you will go to jail. Don't do that. You know, I'm just kind of thinking it through and I'm like, where is this coming from? So we left the restaurant. I'm still a little confused. So while we're all in the car, I called her mother and I said, can you please talk to your daughter? Somehow or another she's flipping out because [the Child] bit her and she's talking about biting him back. . . . But, long story short, though, she had a conversation with her mom. We finally get back to our apartment at that time, she went in one room and undressed, undressed [the Child] changed her clothes. Now, remember this is us coming from lunch after coming from church, and so by that time I'm like, okay, I'm getting ready to deal with this, so I said, you know what, I said, I'm going to step out for a second. I get to the door and I hear a loud slap (witness claps his hands), and he starts crying. I run back to the room, she has him by the face telling him, don't you ever bite your mother.
And I said, [Mother], you need to give me our son and you need to just relax. No, you're not going to take him from me. I had to physically restrain her and hold her down, and I had to tell her, you're not going to do anything else to him. She finally gave [the Child] back to me, and I called the police because at that time I was like, I don't even know where to even go from here. I still have the 911 tape and everything where I called them. They came there, I told them my story, she told them whatever she told them, and before I knew it, I was being taken to jail.

         Mother has referred to this incident as one wherein she obtained an order of protection. Father was asked if a hearing was held, and he stated: "No. It was completely thrown out. . . . And the whole matter has even been expunged, even the arrest, . . . ."

         Father testified about when Mother had primary custody of the Child. Father testified that when he would pick the Child up for his parenting time the Child would be dressed in clothing "too little for him" and "[h]is hair wouldn't be brushed or cut." Father was asked if he paid child support during the time when Mother was the primary residential parent, and he stated: "Yes, I did. I actually paid money even beforehand, as well."

         Father testified that he has provided for the Child's health care since birth. Father was asked if the Child had any health issues during the time that Mother had primary custody, and he stated:

It was horrible. There would be multiple times when I did get [the Child], when she would drop him off he would be sick, have a cold, congested. She dropped him off one time and he had strep throat, and had no indication of it, no fair warning. And like I said, I spend a lot of time with my mother, and my mother has rheumatoid arthritis, so her immune system is already weak from all the medication she takes. She's fine, but, you know, that exposes her, too, and then let alone exposes me, also. So I wouldn't have minded a heads-up.
There was a time, and this was when he was - - this was actually before the divorce was finalized and everything, I think the separation had been recent, but during Christmas when I got him, he wasn't eating. And we were trying to find out, well, what the devil is going on. And come to find out - - and they finally contacted us and let us know that, oh, well, [the Child] had thrush and you may want to take him to the doctor. And I'm thinking, you had him all day, all day, and this child did not eat, and you did not take him somewhere to get the medication for it. So we had to stop our Christmas plans and - - I mean we had all of our family, which is fine, that's fine - - but we stopped everything. I took him to the emergency room, they checked him out, simple prescription, got him the medicine, that was it. But, you know, any parent that knows about a child having thrush -- because he had it before when [Mother] and I were together. It's painful. A child's not going to eat because of the friction across the tongue and in the mouth, it's painful. And so he was real whiny, real mopey, and that's when I knew something was wrong. And when I asked, you know, well, he has thrush, he's had it all day, you might need to take him to the hospital.

         Father testified there also were times when the Child had medications, and Mother did not provide them. So Father would have to go pick up the medication. Father stated: "if he's got medication, I want to give it to him at the right time and make sure that he stays on the schedule."

         Father testified that when Mother was the primary residential parent Father was supposed to have the Child every other weekend and have phone calls with the Child. Father stated:

I was also supposed to speak to him at least two times each week. Those occasions were very rare. I typically would not speak to him - - it wouldn't be, you know, every week, it would usually be about three weeks, maybe, sometimes a month before I would even speak to my son. I'd get interrupted. Many times there would be like pots and pans banging in the background, or the phone would disconnect, or the phone would be muted. And so there were a lot of distractions, a lot of interruptions. There were times he'd come back on the phone crying, and then I'd find out later that his mother had spanked him for him talking about, you know, something that they were doing there at home. When I would see him, you know, we had a great time.

         Father testified that he would read books to the Child when he would see him, they would visit museums or go to the park, or watch cartoons together. Father testified they also would spend time with Father's mother and sister and on Sundays would go to Father's grandmother's house to visit.

         Father testified that when Mother had primary custody if she needed child care and called Father's mother then Father's mother would cancel any plans she had to take care of the Child. Father stated that his mother has "been there every step of the way" and that he could not recall a time when his mother refused to care for the Child.

         Father testified about an incident that occurred when the Child was attending daycare. Father was scheduled to pick the Child up one day and was running a little bit late due to a meeting that ran late. Father contacted the daycare to let them know he was on his way. When Father arrived, Mother was leaving the daycare with the Child. Father stated:

I said, well, I said, I'm already here, let me go ahead and get [the Child], you know, we'll go ahead and leave. And when I reached for him, she snatched him away and she said, don't touch me, you don't touch my son and you don't touch me or I'm calling the police. And I said, I'm here to pick up [the Child], this is what was agreed to. And she was belligerent. And she was doing this, now, while she has him in her arms. And this isn't the first time that she's been somewhat violent with him. But I'm like, just give me my son so that we can go and let's keep it moving, you know. And after a minute or two of just trying to reason, you know, finally got him, she put him down and walked on, I put him in the car, and we got out of Dodge.

         Father stated that interactions with Mother during drop-offs and pick-ups have "never really been peaceful." Father was asked how he reacts, and he stated:

I try to back off. You know, I've been here before dealing with her and her temper and then trying to turn the tables and put me in some situation like I'm - - . . . . But no, it's - - my thing is to try to avoid it. I don't like conflict. I try to reason through things. I'm not going to lie. I do get upset, seriously upset, because it involves my son. But I'm nobody's fool, either. I'm not going to sit up here and just go back and forth with you on things. Drama is not something that I thrive on.

         According to Father, when it was time for the Child to begin kindergarten Father attempted to talk to Mother about where the Child would attend school, and "she either would not respond or she would say, it's none of your business, I'm going to make the decision." Father was not satisfied with the choice of school because the school Mother chose was a new charter school without a proven record, and Father had "already heard rumors about issues that were there."

         Mother had primary residential custody from the Child's first day of school in kindergarten until February of 2015. Mother moved to New Jersey in January of 2015. The Child's kindergarten report card was introduced as an exhibit, and it shows that the Child's grades went up in several areas during the third and fourth quarters of kindergarten when Father had custody as compared to the first two quarters during which Mother had primary custody.

         Father testified that the Child now was in the first grade. After Father gained custody of the Child, he enrolled the Child in a different school from where the Child had attended kindergarten. Father testified that he made the decision to change schools. Father stated that the new school is the school that the Child is zoned for, and that neither Father nor Mother lived near the school where the Child had attended kindergarten.

         Father testified that the Child is doing "exceptionally well" in school and is "reading well above reading level." Father hopes eventually to send the Child to private school because "it's clear that he's very intellingent and he needs to be somewhere where he can be challenged appropriately." When asked about the Child's extracurricular activities, Father stated that the Child was in Bible club at school. Father hopes to incorporate some sports activity in the future.

         Father testified that the majority of Mother's family, including Mother's mother and father, her two sisters and a brother, her great aunt, her sister's children and her brother's children, reside in Chattanooga. Father stated that Mother also has some extended family in Atlanta and in Alabama. Father testified that the Child has a good relationship with Mother's family. Father was asked if during the time he has known Mother they ever had visited any of Mother's family in D.C., New Jersey, or New York, and he stated:

No. I knew that she had an uncle that at one time lived somewhere in the D.C. area. But as far as Trenton, New Jersey, New York, Philadelphia, out of the - - I'll say the 16 years now that I've known [Mother], and having been married to her for seven years, there was never, ever any mention of any family that was in Philadelphia, or Trenton, New Jersey, or anywhere else on the East Coast, except for the one uncle that I knew of that lives somewhere in D.C.

         Father testified that after he was granted custody of the Child:

I made it very clear to her family up front, I said, I know that [Mother's] in New Jersey. I said, you-all are welcome to pick up the parenting plan from there, you can have those times with him. I made that clear. I've made that clear since February 2015 even up until now.

         Father stated that Mother's family has not taken him up on this offer except for a few times. Father stated that a "big reason" why he thinks the Child should remain in Chattanooga is "because he needs both of his families in his life." Father stated that his relationship with Mother's family is better than his relationship with Mother. Father testified that other than allowing other family members to watch the Child he never has needed to hire a babysitter.

         Father attends church and takes the Child to church. Father stated that he attends the same church that he has attended since he got primary custody of the Child. Father was asked if the teachings of his church were consistent with the teachings of the church that the Child had attended with Mother's father, and he stated: "Yes. Denominationally, they're different. They're at a Baptist church, we're at a Presbyterian church. But as far as the fundamental tenets of what we believe, yes."

         Father has not witnessed Mother physically punishing the Child, but he stated that he has seen fingernail marks on the Child "from where she's pinched him." Father was asked if he uses physical punishment with the Child, and he stated:

Very rarely. I will sometimes pop him on the hand or on the bottom. But with him, like I said, he's such an intelligent child, a lot of times you can reason with him. Even with him, I tell him, you know, just tell me what happened, what was the situation, and we'll go from there. And when he tells me that, you know, yeah, I - - . . . . But if he says something - - if he tells me the truth about a matter, I'm like, okay, well that's fine, I said, let's pray about it, and you're forgiven because you were honest with me about it. And probably nine times out of ten that's typically how it goes.

         Father testified that he does not talk about Mother in a negative way with the Child. Father stated that he tells the Child "regardless of Mommy and Daddy being separated, we're both going to be in agreement on you not doing the wrong thing, if it's saying the wrong thing or doing something that you're not supposed to." Father stated that there have been times when Mother has asked him to speak to the Child about behavior, and Father stated that he would tell the Child "you need to obey your mother." Father stated that he has "never in any way diminished her right as an authority figure in his life when it came to disciplining him for anything that he's done wrong. If anything, I've supported it, encouraged it." Father stated that he has spoken positively about Mother to the Child, and stated:

I make it very clear to him that his mother loves him when concerns have been raised by him about seeing his mother, and I tell him, well, your mommy loves you. And I have to tell him, you know, she may not be here, but your mommy's working, she's in New Jersey working, when she can come here, she'll be here, you'll get to see her. I've even had to tell him, though - - because for some reason he has in his mind that I'm not letting him see his mother, and I'll let him know that, son, you can go anytime that your mommy wants you to go up there to visit, I don't have a problem with that. My whole thing is I want him to have more time with her, I want him to see her, I want him to have more time with her, because, again, the whole point of the matter of him staying here in Chattanooga is because all of his family's here.

         Father testified that the parenting plan entered in February of 2015 along with the Temporary Order provided for Mother to have phone calls with the Child two times per week. Father stated that he agreed to a third day and told Mother she could call on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. Father based these days on his work schedule and the Child's schedule when he knew the Child could talk and when the Child's homework was taken care of or the Child had time to complete it. Father was asked how he came up with the times for phone calls, and he stated:

I based those - - Tuesday and Thursday was based off of the times that I was supposed to have when [Mother] was the custodial parent, and so when I got him I asked and it was said that yes, we'll keep those times. And then I also threw in Sunday as well because I knew that, you know, being in New Jersey like that, you know, he might as well have an additional day where he can talk with her.

         Father stated that he and Mother intially agreed to those days for phone calls. He stated that as time went on Mother wasn't calling on those days and "[t]here were times where she went two weeks without speaking to [the Child]." Father stated that Mother then began "calling at different odd times, may call on a Monday at random, or Wednesday, or Friday." Father told Mother that the Child needed some structure and consistency, and Mother responded that she could call anytime she wanted and that Father could not tell Mother when she could speak to the Child.

         Father explained that the Child uses Father's cell phone to talk to Mother, and Father set the times for when he knew that his schedule would accommodate allowing the Child to talk on Father's cell phone. Father stated that when the Child is talking to Mother, Father usually leaves the room. Father stated that he refrains from asking the Child what he and Mother spoke about. Father stated: "[the Child] is six, he's still a very young child, but he will form his own opinion of both me and his mother based on his own interactions with us. And if anything has happened in conversation or otherwise with her, at some point it will come to light."

         Father testified that after he was granted custody in February of 2015, other than summer and spring break, Mother has exercised parenting time during her weekends five or fewer times. Mother exercised her parenting time during Christmas in Chattanooga, and Father stated that she got some additional time with the Child. Mother came to Chattanooga during the week after the Child's spring break. This time was not Mother's scheduled time under the parenting plan, but Father allowed her to spend time with the Child. Mother did not request to see the Child during the Child's spring break, which is scheduled as Mother's time under the parenting plan. Father testified that he and Mother split the summer as per the parenting plan. Mother had the end of the summer and was supposed to return the Child to Father at the end of July. During the time that Mother had the Child, Father would attempt to call during the times provided for in the plan and often was unable to speak to the Child.

         Father testified that this Court's Opinion in Lawrence v. Broadnax I was released during the summer while Mother was exercising parenting time, and Mother mistakenly seemed to think that she now had primary custody of the Child. Father explained that he had allowed Mother to have the Child longer because Mother's sister was getting married. Initially, Mother was to return the Child to Father at the end of July. Father agreed to give Mother extra time with the Child because Mother's sister was getting married in Chattanooga on August 8th. The Child's school was scheduled to begin on August 13th. On August 9th, after the wedding, Mother flew with the Child back to New Jersey. Father testified that he feared that he "was never going to see him again, " and after futilely calling and sending e-mails he had "to shuffle around and beg and then threaten with a police report for kidnapping to let them know that if I don't get my child back, somebody's going to jail." The Child finally was returned to Father on the day before school began "at almost 10:00 that night." Father stated that the Child had had "to catch planes" and "get on a Megabus" in order to return to Chattanooga. The Child had to fly to Denver and then ended up in Atlanta and took the bus from Atlanta to Chattanooga. Father testified that the Child flew with one of Mother's uncles who lives in Atlanta.

         Father is concerned that if Mother is allowed to move with the Child to New Jersey that Father would not have the time to speak with the Child on the phone as allowed in the parenting plan because "[i]t didn't happen before, when I was in closer proximity to him, when I moved all the way from Dallas to Atlanta and then even moved back here, so there's no reason to believe, based on her past behavior, that it's going to change." With regard to seeing the Child in person, Father stated: "nobody's going to be flying back and forth to New Jersey, you know, once a week, two times a week, or however often. So I know that I won't see him as much as I - - as would be mandated, I just wouldn't." Father testified that even before February of 2015, Mother did not comply with the parenting plan.

         Father has concerns about Mother's desire to stay in New Jersey based upon things he has heard from Mother. Father has tried to ask Mother if she currently is employed. He stated that Mother's response was "pretty much an answer basically saying to stay out of my business." Father testified that Mother was not employed from August through December of 2015, and that she did not request to see the Child during that time. Father testified that he never has denied any request Mother has made for parenting time. Mother requested additional time during Christmas break, and Father stated that he "referred her to the parenting plan, and I said that the parenting plan provided sufficient time initially. But she still got to spend more time with him."

         Father testified that Mother sent him text messages about the Trial Court. Father stated:

She stated that - - that the ex parte order that had been entered was illegal, and that basically you and Judge Thomas, who was the then-presiding judge over things, that somehow or another you-all were in cahoots. And she mentioned the fact that Judge Thomas was an alcoholic judge. And yeah, she kind of went from there. And, you know, over the last 16 years of knowing [Mother], by this time I shouldn't be surprised by anything that comes across, but when she sent that text back to me, even I was speechless then.

         The parenting plan is temporary, but Father believes that if Mother decides to remain in New Jersey the plan should become permanent. Father has not asked Mother for child support and Mother has not provided any child support.

         Father was asked why he thinks it is in the Child's best interest to remain with him, and he stated:

The main thing is that [the Child] needs to be with his family, and not just my family, but her family as well. He has no one else up in New Jersey or Philadelphia or anywhere else that has been thrown out there. All of his family is located primarily in Chattanooga, and if not Chattanooga, they're somewhere in the southeast, within reasonable driving distance.
Second of all, again, [Mother], her employment record is such to where it - - it gives me pause to think that she's going to be able to provide sufficiently for him if she's jumping from job to job. And especially recently, now, with having the long gap from August to December, my question is - - yeah, she's an educator, as Mr. Wright brought up, but where are you working at? And if you're a teacher, and if there are these abundance of jobs out there, why aren't you doing that, and what happened to keep you from being employed? My son doesn't need to be somewhere where - - where there's financial insecurity there, and instability.
So the fact that his family is here, the issues with employment and reasonable financial stability and security, also, too, my concerns about her with her - - with her mental state, when it comes to her being violent at times. Like I said, I'm not here to, you know, besmirch her character or anything, these are just legitimate concerns from things I've seen over time.
I have concerns with her being in an isolated place, away from family and help and other people that know her, love her, care about her and my son, to help her. Being there by herself - - and I could care less about any friends that she's made up there, they're not family, and they're not people that know her and know him. And to be isolated like that, with the issues like she's had before with how she's disciplined him, supposedly, and even just her behavior towards me, that's scary.
So those are my main three things right there why it's in his best interest to be here. Because, again, I'm not trying to take [the Child] from her, but I am trying to make sure that his network of family and friends and people who've invested in his life, that it stays intact.

Marsh Lawrence ("Grandfather"), Father's father, testified. He described Father as "a very loving, patient father." Grandfather sees the Child typically two or three times per week. He explained that on Sundays the family, including his sisters, his niece, nephew, and great nephew, gather at his mother's, Father's grandmother's, house. When asked about the Child's relationship with this extended family, Grandfather stated: "he loves them." Grandfather testified that prior to Mother moving to New Jersey she would call him if she needed a babysitter, and Grandfather would babysit. Grandfather never charged Mother for babysitting the Child. Grandfather acknowledged that when Mother lived in Chattanooga in 2010, she allowed Grandfather to visit with the Child on a consistent basis.

         Grandfather was asked if Father speaks negatively about Mother in front of the Child, and he stated: "Oh, no. I mean, at least in front of me, he always tells him to respect his mother. And, you know, if - - if he thinks he's been punished unfairly or, you know, whatever, [Father] will tell him that his mother, you know, whatever she did was fair."

         Grandfather stated that the Child is a happy child, "is very curious" and "likes to cuddle up." When asked what other types of affection he has witnessed between Father and the Child, Grandfather stated:

Well, I mean, other than mutual respect, you know, he's his dad. And, you know, even if [Father] has to, you know, tell him about something that he's doing wrong, you know, he's respectful, you know, yes, sir. And, you know, he's teaching him how to be honest, you know, if you do something wrong or you tell a lie, if you come to me and you tell me, he said you're forgiven, but, you know, just tell the truth.

Syletta Broadnax Edwards, Mother's sister, testified. Ms. Edwards is a social worker for DCS. Ms. Edwards testified that the Child has a close relationship with her son who is 16 years old. She stated that the Child "calls him his brother." Ms. Edwards testified that the Child:

loves his mother. They have a bond, just like a child and a mom. Of course, she has rules and structure. And of course, as a boy, sometimes boys don't follow that. They love to test their mother. But in the same breath, they have a - - they have a good bond.

Ms. Edwards testified about a problem that occurred after entry of the Temporary Order granting Father custody of the Child. She stated that Mother attempted to pick the Child up at school, but that the school would not release the Child to Mother because Mother was not on the list. Ms. Edwards went to the school, and Father was called. Ms. Edwards stated that ...


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