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Woolbright v. Woolbright

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

February 16, 2018


          Session November 7, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Putnam County No. 2015-CV-095 Amy V. Hollars, Judge

         In this appeal, a father challenges the trial court's award of equal parenting time to the child's mother. The father contends that he should be awarded more parenting time because the majority of the statutory best interest factors weigh in his favor and he provides the child more stability. We have reviewed the record and find that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in awarding equal parenting time to the parties.

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

          Michael Savage, Livingston, Tennessee, for the appellant, Travis Daniel Woolbright.

          Lee Anna Woolbright, Cookeville, Tennessee, Pro Se.

          Andy D. Bennett, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Thomas R. Frierson, II, and W. Neal McBrayer, JJ., joined.



         Factual and Procedural Background

         Travis Daniel Woolbright ("Father") and Lee Anna Woolbright ("Mother") were married on October 27, 2013. They have one child from the marriage, Jameson, born in August 2013. Mother also has a child from a previous relationship, Jackson, born in July 2011. In early 2015, Mother began an affair with Levi Altura.[1] Shortly thereafter, the parties separated. After approximately one and one-half years of marriage, Father filed for divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences and inappropriate marital conduct. Mother filed an answer and counter-complaint for divorce based on the same grounds.

         Both parties worked during the marriage. Mother works as a store manager for Dollar General. Early in the marriage, her work schedule required her to work late hours because she was the manager for the closing shift; however, she now works the early shift and is home between 3:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. Father works for his family's business, Woolbright's Garage Doors, and generally works from 6:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m.

         After filing the complaint, Father filed a motion for pendente lite relief. The record does not include Father's motion, but the trial court's order entered on June 17, 2015, states that the court heard the motion on June 3, 2015, and that it pertained to establishing a temporary parenting plan and child support. The trial court designated Mother as the primary residential parent, granted both parties equal parenting time, and ordered Mother to pay $31 per month in child support. The trial court based its decision, in part, on the fact that Father had refused to allow Mother to exercise parenting time at her home because she resided with Mr. Altura. The trial court found that Father's actions were "not a good example of facilitating a good relationship with the Mother." The trial court noted that Mother's "relationships with other men shows instability."

         The parties were scheduled to attend mediation on August 6, 2015. Both parties arrived for the scheduled mediation; however, it did not occur because Mother refused to participate. Before leaving the mediation, Mother informed Father in writing that she intended to relocate to Illinois. On August 28, 2015, Father filed an objection to Mother's relocation and requested that the trial court grant an ex parte temporary restraining order enjoining and restraining her from removing Jameson from Tennessee. The trial court granted the ex parte restraining order on September 23, 2015. Father's divorce complaint was scheduled for a hearing on October 2, 2015. Mother moved to Illinois without Jameson one week before the scheduled hearing.

         October 2, 2015 Hearing

         Father testified that he has worked for Woolbright's Garage Doors since 2001. He stated that he lives with his parents and does not plan to move in the near future. The home he shares with his parents is large enough to allow Jameson his own bedroom. According to Father, his parents are very supportive and help him with Jameson. Specifically, while Father is at work, Jameson stays with Father's mother. He explained that, although his mother provided some assistance by taking care of Jameson while Father is at work, he does not rely on her to provide the necessary care for Jameson after returning home from work. Father feeds, clothes, and bathes the child. Furthermore, he takes the child to medical appointments, sick-baby appointments, and well-baby appointments. Father stated that he wanted the child to be able to communicate with Mother while she resides in Illinois. In regard to Mother's move to Illinois, Father testified that she did not tell him when she was moving. He learned of her move when two people called to tell him that there was a moving truck parked in front of Mother's residence. Father drove to Mother's home and watched Mr. Altura load Jameson's belongings onto the moving truck. Finally, Father testified that he had received no child support payments from Mother.

         Mother testified at the hearing as well. She testified that she provided the necessary care for Jameson, such as diaper-changing and bathing. She stated that she had steady employment as a store manager for Dollar General. She admitted that she moved to Illinois prior to the hearing because she accepted a position managing a Dollar General in that area. According to Mother, the new position paid $8, 000 more per year than the position she held in Tennessee and could potentially advance her career. She explained that the job was in a store that had "fallen behind" and, if she improved that store within one year, she could enroll in human resource ("HR") training in Chicago. After receiving the HR training, she could advance to an HR position within Dollar General. She stated that she could receive the HR training at the same time she worked as a store manager. Furthermore, there was a daycare for the child to attend located in the same complex as the store where Mother works. In regard to her son Jackson, Mother testified that there was no custody or visitation order in place. She and Jackson's father "work together" so he can visit Jackson as much as possible. Mother further testified that Jackson currently lived with his father but would soon be joining her in Illinois. She thought it was important for her children to be together.

         Mother admitted to having an affair with Mr. Altura. She testified that he is from Illinois and is, in fact, still married to a woman in Illinois. Following the pendente lite hearing, Mr. Altura returned to Illinois for a brief time. Mother stated that he moved back to Tennessee, however, so they could "further their relationship." Mr. Altura moved to Illinois with her when she accepted the new manager position and the two were living together at the time of the hearing. Mother testified that Mr. Altura and his wife were working on obtaining a divorce but had to wait "on their taxes so that they could pay the court." According to Mother, she and Mr. Altura planned to marry once they both obtained divorces. Finally, Mother testified that Mr. Altura had a good relationship with Jameson: Jameson responds well to him and "they play together."

         The trial court entered an order titled "Final Order and Decree of Divorce" on November 17, 2015. In this order, the trial court declared the parties divorced, designated Father as the primary residential parent, and incorporated a parenting plan that provided equal residential parenting time to the parties. The trial court conducted a best interest analysis applying the factors found in Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-6-106(a), which we will discuss in further detail later in this opinion. Due to the distance between the parties' homes, the day-to-day schedule provided for the child to be with one parent for three weeks and then switch to be with the other parent for three weeks. The trial court stated at the bottom of the order that "the parenting schedule will be reviewed by the Court in March, 2016." When the ...

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