Session September 5, 2017
from the Juvenile Court for Montgomery County No. 16-JV-59
Ray Grimes, Judge
appeal arises from the adoption of a permanent parenting plan
and the determination of a father's child support
obligation. The father argues that the juvenile court erred
in both its fashioning of the parenting plan and its
calculation of his child support obligation. Because the
court made insufficient findings of fact and conclusions of
law, we vacate and remand.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Juvenile
Court Vacated and Case Remanded
C. Girsky, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellant,
R., Adrienne Gilliam Fry, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the
appellee, Megan R.
Neal McBrayer, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which D. Michael Swiney, C.J., and Frank G. Clement Jr.,
P.J., M.S., joined.
NEAL McBRAYER, JUDGE
R. ("Father") and Megan R. ("Mother")
married on May 30, 2014, in Florida. They moved, along with
Mother's son from a prior marriage, to Clarksville,
Tennessee, due to Father's military service. The exact
date of the move is not reflected in the record, but the
parties moved into a house in Clarksville in May 2015. That
same month, they welcomed their daughter, Briley R.
2015, Father left the army and began working as an
over-the-road truck driver making approximately $700-900 per
week. Mother stayed at home caring for the children.
foreshadowing events to come, in October 2015, a Florida
court annulled the marriage between Father and Mother
because, at the time of their marriage, Mother's divorce
from her prior husband was not yet final. Sometime in
mid-December 2015, Father left the home he shared with Mother
and moved back to Florida to live with his parents. But he
continued to pay the mortgage on the house, the car loan,
utilities, and phone bills.
January 14, 2016, Mother filed a petition for legitimation in
the Juvenile Court for Montgomery, Tennessee, seeking entry
of a parenting plan and child support. Father filed an answer
and counter-petition for custody. After a pre-trial hearing,
the court ordered, among other things, Father to
"continue to pay the regular bills he had been paying
pending further order." The court also established a
temporary parenting plan, directing each party to exchange
the child just south of Atlanta, Georgia, every two weeks
beginning on February 13, 2016.
juvenile court conducted a bench trial on April 1, 2016,
which lasted less than two hours. Father, Mother, and
Briley's pediatrician testified.
to Mother's testimony, Father abandoned the children and
her without warning and left them with no means of support.
She also claimed surprise that Father had quit his job.
Mother did admit that Father continued to pay expenses after
leaving and that he left some money in a joint check account.
Mother also conceded that she was receiving child support
from her former husband.
disputed Mother's version of events, asserting that he
left because the parties were already having problems.
According to Father, Mother "knew it was coming, "
and Mother "told [him] to leave on multiple . . .
claimed to have quit his job as a truck driver because of his
belief that he would never get custody of Briley unless he
obtained a more stable job. His job kept him on the road and
away from home seven to nine days at a time. He testified
that he was compelled to move back in with his parents in
Florida because he could not pay both the mortgage on the
house and rent for an apartment in Clarksville.
parties entered into evidence various texts and Facebook
messages. Generally, this evidence reflected poorly on both
Father and Mother. Father also played for the court
recordings of his interactions with Mother, but the
recordings themselves were not introduced into evidence.
pediatrician testified briefly regarding her interactions
with Briley and Mother. She expressed her opinion that Mother
was "a very good . . . mom" and took proper care of
Briley. But she acknowledged not knowing Mother well.
testimony related to child support was extremely limited.
Mother testified she had been working as a part-time
pharmacist technician for a little over a month, making $10
per hour and working between 10 to 15 hours per week. Father
testified he worked full-time at an air conditioning company
making $12 per hour.
order entered on May 20, 2016, the juvenile court named
Mother the primary residential parent and awarded her 267
days of parenting time. The court awarded Father 98 days. In
support of its ruling, the court made the following findings
1. That the Court has considered the factors in Tenn. Code
Ann. § 36-6-101 [sic];
2. That the factors enumerated in Tenn. Code Ann. §
36-6-101 [sic] weigh in ...