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Wightman v. Wightman

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

May 21, 2019


          Session February 21, 2019

          Appeal from the Probate Court for Cumberland County No. 2018-PF-6114 Larry Michael Warner, Judge

         In this appeal, the father challenges the trial court's determination of the residential parenting schedule as it relates to visitation during the school term. Upon our review, we find that the trial court did not abuse its discretion.

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

          Jeffrey A. Vires, Crossville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Joshua Charles Wightman.

          Henry D. Fincher, Cookeville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Jasmine Desiree Wightman.

          John W. McClarty, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Charles D. Susano, Jr., J. and D. Michael Swiney, C.J., joined.



         I. BACKGROUND

         Jasmine Desiree (Wightman) Taylor ("Mother") and Joshua Charles Wightman ("Father") were married on January 16, 2011. Mother, 28 years old at the time of trial, was attending school to obtain training as a radiological technician. Father, 35 years old, worked as a corrections officer at the Bledsoe County Correctional Facility. Father stipulated that he earned $4, 200 a month in his job. Despite attending classes, Mother was able to earn $1, 440 a month. Two children were born of the marriage, Joshua (11/22/2010) and Brady (7/9/2014).

         Mother filed a complaint for divorce on March 12, 2018. The parties agreed to the provisions of an agreed temporary order entered on June 8, 2018, which provided in relevant part as follows:

a. During the summer, Father would have visitation with the Children during his days off from his job as a Corrections Officer;
b. During the school year, Father would have visitation every other weekend from Friday 5:00 pm until Sunday 5:00 pm and other times as the parties could agree;
c. Father's child support arrearages would be reserved to the final hearing.

         On July 10, 2018, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation and Statement in Domestic Relations Case:

a. Summer visitation will be week on, week off divided equally between the parties;
b. Father has an admitted child support arrearage of $4, 770, and will retire it with payments of $100 per month;
c. Father has the Children on their Spring Break; Mother has them on their Fall Break;
d. The parties have joint decision making over the Children's education, health, religious and extracurricular decisions.

         During the proceedings, Father admitted that Mother was a good parent. He observed that she was the one who primarily bathed the Children, cooked for them, took them to doctors, and addressed school matters. Father claimed to be attentive to the Children's education, observing that "I just make sure they keep their grades up, they're at school on time, and they don't miss." However, he admitted: "I try to just have fun with them when I have them." He acknowledged that his work schedule was 6:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., five days a week, with holidays and weekends off. Despite Father contending that his boss was "real flexible," that he could come in late or work nights in order to get the Children to school on time, and that his father could help him with taking the Children to school and could "be there whenever he needs to be," he offered no proof to corroborate these claims.

         Upon the court asking Father why he had not paid his child support, Father first blamed his lawyer. He then observed: "I've just been paying our household bills." The trial court accepted this explanation. On cross examination, however, Father admitted that the expenses he had paid were not for the residence where Mother and the Children resided and, therefore, did not support the Children's needs. He acknowledged that Mother had paid for the Children's food and clothing over the six months' separation on one-third earnings of what Father earned. Father contended that he had bought clothes for the Children to use at his parents' house, where he was living. According to Father, he planned to get his own place once he could "budget that out."

         Father informed the court that he would work with Mother and communicate with her regarding co-parenting issues. He claimed that visitation had gone smoothly. On cross examination, however, Father admitted that he had given Mother short notice of his schedule and threatened to throw her in jail if she did not deliver the Children the next morning to him. He acknowledged that the parties had engaged in a dispute just the weekend before the trial over visitation. Father noted on cross examination that he had agreed ...

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