Session Date: November 8, 2017
from the Juvenile Court for Davidson County No. 202577 Sheila
father filed a petition to establish parentage and a
residential parenting schedule. After father's parentage
was established, the juvenile court set a residential
parenting schedule that awarded equal parenting time and
ordered the child's surname changed to a hyphenated
version of both parents' surnames. Mother appealed,
arguing that the court erred in fashioning the parenting
schedule and in ordering a change of the child's surname.
Upon review, we affirm the residential parenting schedule but
vacate that portion of the order directing a change in the
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Juvenile
Court Affirmed in Part and Vacated in Part
Diane Crosier and Jill Hudson, Franklin, Tennessee, for the
appellant, Laura Z.
W. Moser (on appeal), Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee,
H. Miller, Nashville, Tennessee, Guardian ad Litem.
Neal McBrayer, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which Frank G. Clement, Jr., P.J., M.S., and Thomas R.
Frierson II, J., joined.
NEAL McBRAYER, JUDGE
was born to Laura Z. ("Mother"), a single mother,
in 2008. In September 2014, Mother notified Kason P.
("Father") that he might be McKenzie's father,
and paternity was subsequently confirmed. Mother arranged
some joint outings for Father and daughter to get acquainted,
and Father began attending McKenzie's extracurricular
activities. A few months later, McKenzie had two overnight
visits at Father's home, where she was introduced to his
family. The new relationship progressed smoothly until
mid-January 2015, when Mother and Father had a heated dispute
over the logistics of an overnight visit. After that, Mother
refused to allow unsupervised visitation.
filed a petition to establish parentage and set a residential
schedule in the Juvenile Court for Davidson County,
Tennessee. He asked the court to declare him
McKenzie's legal father, name him the primary residential
parent, and change McKenzie's surname to a hyphenated
version of both Father's and Mother's surnames.
receiving the results of court-ordered paternity testing, the
juvenile court magistrate declared Father to be
McKenzie's legal father. The magistrate reserved the
issue of child support for a later date and referred the
parties to mediation with instructions to "work out
proved unsuccessful, and in November 2015, the magistrate
awarded Father a limited amount of temporary parenting time.
Over the course of the next few months, despite Mother's
continued objections, the magistrate gradually increased the
amount of Father's parenting time to every Thursday after
school until Sunday at 6 p.m. On more than one occasion, the
magistrate urged the parents to establish their own
visitation schedule. But they were unable to agree.
January 2016, the magistrate named Mother primary residential
parent and set a permanent residential parenting schedule.
Under the magistrate's plan, the temporary parenting
schedule remained in place for the first three weeks. Then,
for the next six months, the parents were to exchange custody
weekly. Thereafter, custody would be exchanged on a monthly
basis with the non-residential parent having additional
parenting time every other weekend during the month. The
magistrate also set a corresponding amount of child support.
requested a de novo hearing by the judge of the juvenile
court. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 37-1-107(d) (Supp.
2017). The hearing took place over two separate days. And
multiple witnesses testified, including Mother, Father, and
Dr. Jay Woodman, a clinical psychologist. At the time of the
hearing, McKenzie was seven years old.
first met McKenzie when she was five. He claimed he was
unaware that McKenzie was his daughter until Mother contacted
him in September 2014. Delighted by the news, Father wanted to
spend as much time with McKenzie as possible. He also
voluntarily began paying child support.
lived with his wife, their three-year-old daughter, and his
wife's ten-year-old son from a previous relationship.
Father maintained that his family loved McKenzie and that
McKenzie had developed a good relationship with her new
siblings and stepmother. He also introduced McKenzie to his
parents and other extended family.
Father's wife cared for McKenzie while he worked, Father
was an active parent. Father agreed that McKenzie spent a
considerable amount of time playing at home with her new
siblings. He explained that, as a father of three, he could
not afford a large number of outside activities.
admitted that he and Mother had different parenting styles.
But he claimed he provided needed structure in McKenzie's
life. While moving from a home where she was the center of
attention to one in which she had to share the spotlight with
two siblings required some adjustment, Father maintained that
McKenzie had successfully acclimated to the new environment.
He acknowledged that initially she had difficulty sleeping
and cried at times. But now, "[i]t's getting way
better, period, because I think she's understanding the
wife agreed that McKenzie had adapted to living in their home
and confirmed that Father was actively involved in parenting
all three children. She also expressed a willingness to work
with Mother on any parenting issues.
paternal grandmother told the court about her growing
relationship with McKenzie. She explained that McKenzie was
initially unwilling to spend the night at her house, but over
time had become more comfortable with overnight visits and
large family gatherings.
told a different story. She had raised McKenzie as a single
mother, and they were very close. At the time of the hearing,
they lived with Mother's parents. As Mother described it,
McKenzie enjoyed a strong, stable family environment with
Mother and the maternal grandparents. Mother maintained that