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Minyard v. Lucas

Supreme Court of Tennessee, Knoxville

May 29, 2019

LEWIS ALVIN MINYARD
v.
LAURA NICOLE LUCAS

          Session May 7, 2019

          Appeal by Permission from the Court of Appeals Circuit Court for Knox County No. 93853 Gregory S. McMillan, Judge

         We granted this appeal to consider whether a circuit court loses continuing, exclusive subject matter jurisdiction if a post-divorce petition seeking modification of a parenting plan adopted in a final divorce decree alleges facts that are tantamount to an unruly child claim, over which juvenile courts have exclusive original jurisdiction pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 37-1-103. After we granted this appeal, the General Assembly amended section 37-1-103 to expressly provide that a circuit court retains subject matter jurisdiction in these circumstances until and unless a pleading is filed or relief is sought in juvenile court and the juvenile court's exclusive original jurisdiction is invoked. Act of April 18, 2019, 2019 Tenn. Pub. Acts ch. 167. The General Assembly applied this amendment to all cases pending on its April 18, 2019 effective date, including this appeal. Id. § 2. Because no pleading was filed in juvenile court nor was the juvenile court's exclusive jurisdiction invoked in any other manner in this case, the circuit court retained subject matter jurisdiction of the post-divorce petition. Therefore, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed, and the judgment of the circuit court is reinstated.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 11 Appeal by Permission; Judgment of the Court of Appeals Reversed and Judgment of the Trial Court Reinstated

          R. Deno Cole, Darren V. Berg, and R. Samuel English (at trial), Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Lewis Alvin Minyard.

          Austin Brett Lucas, Brentwood, Tennessee, for the appellee, Laura Nicole Lucas.

          Cornelia A. Clark, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Jeffrey S. Bivins, C.J., and Sharon G. Lee, Holly Kirby, and Roger A. Page, JJ., joined.

          OPINION[1]

          CORNELIA A. CLARK, JUSTICE

         I. Factual and Procedural History

         Lewis Alvin Minyard ("Father") and Laura Nicole Lucas ("Mother") were divorced by final decree entered by the Circuit Court for Knox County, Tennessee ("Circuit Court") on August 5, 2003. The final decree adopted and incorporated the parties' Marital Dissolution Agreement, which in turn, adopted and incorporated their Permanent Parenting Plan ("PPP"). The PPP designated Mother as the primary residential parent of the parties' then almost two-year-old minor child and gave Mother major decision-making authority. Father received substantial parenting time under the PPP.

         Eleven years later, on November 5, 2014, Father returned to the Circuit Court and filed a petition seeking modification of the PPP and emergency relief pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated sections 36-6-101 et seq. Father alleged facts regarding Mother's conduct and care of the minor child, and he requested exclusive care, custody, and control of the minor child, alleging that the minor child was without the proper care and supervision and was in danger of immediate and irreparable harm in Mother's care. On the day after Father filed his petition, November 6, 2014, the Circuit Court entered an interim emergency order granting immediate sole custody to Father and setting the case for a hearing within fifteen days. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-6-405(b) (2017) (authorizing this process). On November 14, 2014, the Circuit Court entered an agreed order by which Mother waived her right to a hearing on the question of emergency relief, Father retained exclusive care, custody, and control of the minor child, and Mother's parenting time remained suspended.

         On March 17, 2015, Mother moved to reinstate her parenting time. Father opposed the motion. On July 6, 2015, the Circuit Court granted Mother supervised parenting time and set a final hearing. On July 15, 2015, the Circuit Court entered an order allowing Mother's attorney to withdraw.

         On September 29, 2015, the Circuit Court set the matter for trial on December 14, 2015, and ordered the parties to appear for mediation before the trial date. However, on November 13, 2015, Father moved for emergency injunctive relief, seeking to enjoin Mother from interfering with his care, custody, and control of the minor child, and Father alleged that the child was at risk of severe and irreparable harm. On November 13, 2015, the Circuit Court entered an interim emergency order granting sole care, custody, and control of the minor child to Father and suspending Mother's visitation and parenting time pending a hearing. After a hearing on December 8, 2015, the Circuit Court entered an order on December 29, 2015, continuing the matter and leaving in place its prior order granting sole custody to Father and suspending Mother's visitation with the minor child. But the December 29, 2015 order stated: "Mother may bring a motion setting this matter for a hearing at any time."

         More than eighteen months later, on July 17, 2017, the Circuit Court entered a modified PPP designating Father as the primary residential parent with sole decision-making authority but providing Mother with supervised ...


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