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Norman v. Norman

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

November 28, 2017

JULIE ANN NORMAN
v.
JOSHUA SHANE NORMAN

          Session June 6, 2017

         Appeal from the Chancery Court for Wayne County No. 2014-CV-5387 Stella L. Hargrove, Judge

         A Father appeals the trial court's decision to name the Mother as Primary Residential Parent of the parties' two children. Discerning no error, we affirm the decision of the trial court, award the Mother her attorneys' fee incurred on appeal, and remand the case for a determination of the amount.

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

          Paul D. Jeter and Barbara Fisher Henry, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Joshua Shane Norman.

          Ryan P. Durham and Cameron R. Hoffmeyer, Lawrence, Tennessee, for the appellee, Julie Ann Norman.

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

          OPINION

          RICHARD H. DINKINS, JUDGE.

         I. Factual and Procedural History

         Joshua Shane Norman ("Father") and Julie Ann Norman ("Mother") were married on October 17, 2009, and previously resided in Waynesboro, Tennessee. They are the parents of two sons, born in May 2011 and October 2012. At some point during the marriage, Father left Waynesboro and moved to Oneida, Tennessee, to live with his parents and to recover from a shoulder surgery; the record does not show when he moved. Mother filed for divorce on April 25, 2014, and on June 19 Mother and Father entered into an Agreed Temporary Parenting Plan. The plan provided that Mother would have responsibility for the children during the school year, with Father having parenting time every other weekend; during the months of June and July, Father was to have parenting time every other week.

         On March 23, 2015, Mother was indicted by a Wayne County Grand Jury for selling a Schedule III drug to a confidential informant in a school zone. In response to Mother's arrest, Father filed an Emergency Motion to Modify Temporary Parenting Plan, requesting that the children immediately be placed in his care until further notice. The record does not include an order entered on this motion.

         A final decree of divorce was entered on July 7, 2015; the decree incorporated the parties' Marital Dissolution Agreement and another Temporary Parenting Plan. This plan designated Mother as primary residential parent and gave each parent 182.5 days of residential parenting time. The plan was to be in effect until June 2016, at which point the parties were to attend mediation and agree to a permanent plan to be used during the school year. On June 3, 2016, the court entered an Agreed Order wherein the parties waived mediation and set a hearing on a permanent parenting plan for June 30. The hearing was held, and the court made findings and ruled from the bench; on August 30 the court entered an order memorializing its ruling and adopting a new parenting plan, inter alia, designating Mother as primary residential parent and granting her 253 days of residential parenting time and Father 112 days. Father appeals, raising the following issues:

(1) Whether the trial court erred in designating the mother as the primary residential parent?
(2) Whether the father is entitled to his reasonable attorneys' fees?

         II. Standard of Review

         Trial courts have "broad discretion in child custody matters, " Parker v. Parker, 986 S.W.2d 557, 563 (Tenn. 1999), including devising permanent parenting plans and designating the primary residential parent." Consequently, a trial court's decision regarding a permanent parenting plan is "'peculiarly within the broad discretion of the trial judge' and will be set aside only for an abuse of discretion." Armbrister v. Armbrister, 414 S.W.3d 685, 693 (Tenn. 2013) (quoting Suttles v. Suttles, 748 S.W.2d 427, 429 (Tenn. 1988)). A trial court abuses its discretion when it "appl[ies] an incorrect legal standard, reaches an illogical result, resolves the case on a clearly erroneous assessment of the evidence, or relies on reasoning that causes an injustice." Id. (quoting Gonsewski v. Gonsewski, 350 S.W.3d 99, 105 (Tenn. 2011)).

         Under the abuse of discretion standard, the trial court's decision "will be upheld so long as reasonable minds can disagree as to propriety of the decision made." Eldridge v. Eldridge, 42 S.W.3d 82, 85 (Tenn. 2001). "It is not the function of appellate courts to "tweak [parenting plans] in the hopes of achieving a more reasonable result than the trial court." Eldridge, 42 S.W.3d at 88. We review the trial court's factual findings de novo upon the record, accompanied by a presumption of correctness, unless the evidence preponderates otherwise. Tenn. R. App. P. 13(d). We review the trial court's findings of law de novo, with no presumption of correctness. Blackburn v. Blackburn, 270 S.W.3d 42, 47 (Tenn. 2008).

         III. Discussion

         A. Designation of Primary Residential Parent

         At the hearing the court made an oral ruling, which included findings of fact; the findings and ruling were ...


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