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Carmen v. Murray

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

September 25, 2019

BRODERICK D. V. CARMEN
v.
JESSICA ANN MURRAY

          Assigned on Briefs January 7, 2019

          Appeal from the General Sessions Court for Putnam County No. 15-CV-65 Steven D. Qualls, Judge

         In this post-divorce dispute, Father petitioned to modify custody, and Mother filed a counter-petition to modify child support. At trial, both parents agreed to specific modifications to the parenting plan and to set child support according to the Child Support Guidelines. But they could not agree on a location for exchanging the children. After hearing limited testimony from the parents, the court chose an exchange location, set child support, and approved the agreed parenting plan. Unhappy with aspects of the new plan, Father filed a motion to alter or amend or for a new trial. The court denied Father's motion but granted Mother's motion to recalculate child support to reflect the parents' actual parenting time. Because the court's order approving the modified plan does not comply with Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 52.01 and the record lacks a sufficient basis to support a best interest determination, we vacate the modification of the parenting plan and remand for the court to conduct a new evidentiary hearing on whether modification of the parenting plan is in the children's best interest and enter an order compliant with Rule 52.01. In all other respects, the decision of the trial court is affirmed.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the General Sessions Court Vacated in Part; Affirmed in Part; and Case Remanded

          Jason F. Hicks, Cookeville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Broderick D. V. Carmen.

          Mark E. Tribble, Cookeville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Jessica Ann Murray.

          W. Neal McBrayer, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Charles D. Susano, Jr., J., and J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S., joined.

          OPINION

          W. NEAL McBRAYER, JUDGE

         I.

         On August 29, 2014, the Cumberland County Probate and Family Court granted Broderick D. V. Carmen ("Father") and Jessica Ann Murray ("Mother") a divorce. As part of the divorce decree, the court approved and incorporated an agreed permanent parenting plan for the parties' two minor children. The plan named Mother the primary residential parent and granted Father 110 days of residential parenting time to be exercised on all non-school days.

         Mother moved to Wyoming with the children before the divorce was final. The parenting plan designated St. Louis, Missouri as the meeting point for exchanging the children for visitation. Long distance transportation costs were divided equally. Father was not required to pay child support.

         On April 20, 2015, Father filed a petition to modify the permanent parenting plan in the General Sessions Court for Putnam County, Tennessee.[1] Father sought a change in custody based on a material change in circumstances. Mother denied Father's material change allegations and filed a counter-petition for modification of child support.

         At trial, the attorneys announced that the parents had agreed to modify the parenting plan and recalculate child support. After the attorneys described the specific terms of the agreement to the court, both parents voiced their approval of the announced changes.

         The parents agreed that Mother would remain the primary residential parent but that the residential parenting schedule should be modified. The new plan reduced Father's parenting time to 98 days to be exercised in two large blocks. Father had custody of the children for the majority of every summer break and for two additional weeks during either the fall or winter break, depending on the year. The parents also agreed to set child support in the new plan according to the Child Support Guidelines. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-5-101(e)(2) (Supp. 2019).

         But they sharply disagreed on the best method for exchanging the children for visitation. The court heard proof solely on that issue. After the parents testified, the court ruled that it was in the best interest of the children for the parents to meet in Lincoln, ...


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