In re M.M. 
Session May 20, 2019
from the Juvenile Court for Hawkins County No. HJ-14-0312 J.
Todd Ross, Judge
child-custody dispute, father filed a petition for
legitimation and to establish a parenting plan. Father was
subsequently determined to be the biological father of the
minor child M.K. After mother took the child to excessive
medical visits, made unsubstantiated claims that the child
suffers from ailments and had her treated for the same, and
accused father of physically and sexually abusing the child,
the trial court ordered mother to undergo a mental-health
evaluation. Mother was subsequently diagnosed with Factitious
Disorder Imposed on Another, formerly known as Munchausen
Syndrome by Proxy. After a bench trial, the court held that
it is in the child's best interest for father to be
designated the primary residential parent of M.K.
Mother's parenting time was limited to eleven hours of
supervised visitation a week. Mother appeals. We affirm.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Juvenile
Court Affirmed; Case Remanded
Douglas R. Beier, Morristown, Tennessee, for the appellant,
Michelle G. Green, Rogersville, Tennessee, Guardian ad Litem.
Johnson City, Tennessee, appellee, Pro Se.
Charles D. Susano, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the
court, in which D. Michael Swiney, C.J. and Thomas R.
Frierson, II, J., joined.
CHARLES D. SUSANO, JR., JUDGE
and father first met in Oklahoma. Mother became pregnant with
the parties' only child and subsequently moved to
Tennessee to live with her mother. Father followed mother to
Tennessee. Father is a military veteran. He suffers from
physical ailments, PTSD, and Tourette's syndrome. He has
a VA disability rating as a result of his conditions. Father
is presently unemployed, but attends classes at East
Tennessee State University and obtains income from his GI
Bill and disability status.
January 7, 2014, M.K. was born. On April 3, 2014, father
filed an action to legitimate and establish a parenting plan.
Mother initially denied paternity, however a DNA test
confirmed that father was the biological father.
Subsequently, a "Memo of Understanding" was
attached to an "Agreed Order Establishing Paternity and
Setting Temporary Visitation Schedule." Therein, father
was granted temporary visitation with the child under
January 5, 2016, father filed a motion for a hearing due to
mother's non-compliance with the temporary parenting
plan. He also filed a complaint for contempt alleging that
mother refused to allow father his two hours of parenting
time and that she took the child out of state without notice.
On January 11, 2016, the court entered an order dismissing
the contempt complaint, ordered that father be permitted his
parenting time, and ordered the parties to attend mediation.
The subsequent mediation report indicates that the parties
were unable to resolve their dispute.
February 5, 2016, mother filed a motion demanding father
undergo a mental evaluation, because father "has
displayed disturbing behavior as well as made disturbing
statements in [mother's] presence, as well as that of the
child. [Mother] is extremely concerned for their child's
safety and wellbeing while in [f]ather's care." At
the bottom of the motion is handwritten by the court:
"motion for mental evaluation denied. Both parents to
undergo parental assessment and parenting classes."
February 5, 2016 a hearing was held; on April 4, 2016, the
court entered its order. The court suspended father's
temporary visits until after the next court date and after
the parental assessment has been completed. On April 4, 2016,
the court also entered its order from the aforementioned
subsequent court date, which occurred on March 4, 2016;
therein, the court held that father is entitled to supervised
25, 2016, father filed another motion and a proposed
temporary parenting plan. Mediation was subsequently
attended, and the parties agreed to a temporary parenting
plan until May 2017. On December 19, 2016, an agreed order
incorporating the mediation agreement was entered. On
February 15, 2017, father filed a motion to suspend the
December 19, 2016 order and requested a permanent parenting
plan due to mother's refusal to comply with the temporary
parenting schedule. Father also filed a verified petition for
criminal contempt alleging twenty-three counts.
then filed a motion to suspend the visitation order. Therein,
she again alleged that father has engaged in concerning
conduct. She alleged that the minor child has a ketchup
allergy, and father continues to feed the child whatever the
child desires. Mother alleged father does not have a concern
for the child's safety and that he continues to ignore
M.K.'s alleged food allergies. She further alleged that
father has inappropriately touched the child's private
parts. Mother stated that there is currently an open case
with DCS, and that she is concerned for the child's
well-being and safety. Mother also answered father's
petition for criminal contempt.
April 17, 2017, an order was entered following a March 10,
2017 hearing. The order modified father's visitation and
granted him unsupervised parenting time. It held both
father's petition for criminal contempt and mother's
motion to suspend visitation in abeyance.
2, 2017, mother filed a motion to suspend father's
visitation alleging that father had left marks and bruises on
M.K. She alleged that father gave the child food she is
allergic to and that it caused the child to vomit. She
further alleged that she had to take the child to the
emergency room due to the child's crying and bruises on
her body. She also included several comments intimating that
father had sexually abused the child.
2, 2017, the court appointed a Guardian ad Litem and ordered
mother to submit to a mental-health evaluation. It was
suspected that mother may suffer from Munchausen Syndrome by
Proxy. DCS was ordered to investigate. On July
26, 2017, a DCS case manager filed a report indicating that
there was no suspicious bruising on the child at any of the
interviews; it was recommended that father's parenting
time with the child increase.
28, 2017, father filed a second verified petition for
criminal contempt. On September 13, 2017, the court entered
an order granting father custody of the child, changing the
child's surname to father's surname, and ordering
mother to submit to a full Munchausen evaluation from Dr.
Diana McCoy, Ph.D., A.B.A.P., at mother's expense. Dr.
McCoy is a clinical psychologist and board certified in
assessment psychology. Mother's visitation was limited to
only therapeutic visitation through a contracted supervising
agency. Mother did not get the ordered evaluation for several
the forensic evaluation by Dr. McCoy, an order entered May
10, 2018 directed that Dr. McCoy's report was to be
distributed to the parties. The detailed report concluded
that mother suffers from Factitious Disorder Imposed on
Another. On May 30, 2018, the court ordered that "[n]o
one may disseminate (make public) any part of the report by
Dr. McCoy. Dr. McCoy's report shall remain confidential
to these court proceedings."
Guardian ad Litem then filed a "Motion Seeking Approval
of Funds for Expert Witness, and Forensic Evaluation of Case,
Ex-parte Motion (Filed under Seal)." Therein the GAL
alleged that Dr. McCoy's testimony as an expert witness
was necessary to represent the child's best ...