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Hall v. Williams

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

October 4, 2019

LATONYA DENISE HALL
v.
SAMMIELEE WILLIAMS, III

          Session: August 6, 2019

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Montgomery County No. CC-2016-CV-398 Ted A. Crozier, Judge.

         This post-divorce appeal concerns the trial court's modification of a permanent parenting plan. We affirm the parenting plan determination and all other rulings by the trial court.

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

          Robert T. Bateman, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Latonya Denise Hall.

          Daniel P. Bryant, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Sammie Lee Williams, III.

          John W. McClarty, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Frank G. Clement, Jr., P.J. M.S, and Andy D. Bennett, J., joined.

          OPINION

          JOHN W. McCLARTY, JUDGE.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Latonya Denise Hall ("Mother") and Sammie Lee Williams, III ("Father") married in 2003. Two children were born of the marriage. The Parties were divorced in December 2007 in Seoul, Korea. At that time, the Parties were in the U.S. Army and stationed in Korea. The court awarded joint custody but designated Mother as the primary residential parent and tasked Father with remitting child support. The Children resided primarily with Mother at that time; however, they began residing with Father when he returned from deployment in 2014. The Parties agreed that the Children would remain with Father for approximately one year. When Mother attempted to retrieve the Children in 2015, Father and his wife ("Stepmother") refused.

         Mother filed a petition to register and modify the court's order on March 4, 2016, in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County. During the pendency of the hearing, Mother received orders to return to Korea. The Parties then entered into an agreed temporary order on August 4, 2016, awarding Father physical custody of the Children, pending further orders of the court. Mother was provided with the right to telephone communication during her deployment.

         Mother returned from deployment in September 2017. The case proceeded to a hearing in July 2018. At that time, Father had retired and was residing in Clarksville, Tennessee. Mother was stationed in Texas but had also applied for retirement. She planned to remain in Texas following her retirement.

         Mother testified concerning Father and Stepmother's refusal to communicate during her last deployment. She submitted documents establishing that her ability to speak with the Children was severely hampered by them. She alleged that Father and Stepmother also provided her with an incorrect address, resulting in her inability to send the Children gifts during her deployment.

         Father denied Mother's claims and asserted that she failed to remit child support while the Children have been in his care for approximately four years. He claimed that the Children are doing well in Clarksville. He stated that the Children receive above-average grades, are involved in extracurricular activities, and have developed friendships while living in Clarksville. He stated that the Children also live with their half-siblings and that the paternal grandparents planned to move to Clarksville in October.

         The trial court found that a material change in circumstances had occurred that necessitated a change in the parenting plan. The court found that the Children were not residing exclusively with Mother as anticipated by the existing parenting plan but had instead lived together with the Parties, with relatives, or with Father for extended periods of time. The Court explained its findings as follows:

a. From December 11, 2007[, ] until March 2008, the [P]arties lived together as a family in Korea;
b. In March 2008, the [P]arties relocated from Korea to Fort Lewis, Washington and lived together as a family in Washington from March 2008 until June 2009;
c. From June 2009 until June 2010, the [C]hildren resided with [the maternal grandparents] in the State of Florida;
d. From June 2010 until September 2010, the [C]hildren resided with [Father] in Fort Lewis, Washington;
e. From September 2010 until February 2011, the [P]arties resided together as a family in Washington;
f. From March 2011 until September 2011, the [C]hildren resided with the Mother and therefore, child support should have been paid by [Father] during this period of time; g. From October 2011 until June 2012, the [C]hildren resided with [Father];

h. From June 2012 until July 2014, the [C]hildren resided with [Mother] in Virginia and therefore, child support should have been paid by [Father] during this period of time; and

i. From August ...

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