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Nelvis v. Baptist

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

October 29, 2019

TAKESHA CURTISS NELVIS
v.
LAFAYETTE BAPTIST, JR.

          Assigned on Briefs September 17, 2019

          Appeal from the Juvenile Court for Shelby County No. AA9057 Harold W. Horne, Special Judge

         Father appeals the juvenile court's decision to deny him equal parenting time. Because the trial court's order does not contain sufficient findings of fact and conclusions of law as to the statutory best interest factors contained in Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-6-106(a), we vacate the judgment of the trial court and remand for the entry of a proper order.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Juvenile Court Vacated and Remanded

          Princess Woodard, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, LaFayette Baptist, Jr.

          J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S., delivered the opinion of the court, in which W. Neal McBrayer, and Carma Dennis McGee, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          J. STEVEN STAFFORD, JUDGE

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         On October 21, 2014, the State of Tennessee, along with Petitioner Takesha Curtiss Nelvis ("Mother"), filed an action to recover child support against Defendant/Appellant LaFayette Baptist, Jr. ("Father"). The petition alleged that Father owed back child support for the parties' nonmarital child, born in March 2012. Eventually, on June 16, 2015, a juvenile court magistrate entered an order requiring Father to pay ongoing support for the child, retroactive support, and a portion of the child's medical expenses. The order stated that it was a final order but did not include any direction as to parenting time with the child.

         Eventually, on April 30, 2018, Father filed a petition in juvenile court for joint custody and visitation of the child. Father sought alternating week parenting time. The trial court ordered a temporary visitation schedule after a hearing in June 2018.[1]

         A final hearing was held in August 2018 before a special judge.[2] According to a statement of the evidence filed by Father, Father presented evidence of Mother's unsatisfactory living conditions, while Mother was unable to provide a rationale for limiting Father's parenting time with the child.[3] Father also testified that his work schedule, relationship with the child, and home environment supported equal time with the child. According to the statement of the evidence, at the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court declined to provide an oral ruling as to the best interest factors supporting its decision.

         On September 4, 2018, the trial court entered a written order granting Father parenting time on the first, third, and fifth weekends of the month, as well as some holiday visitation. The order lists all fifteen factors under consideration in Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-6-106(a) and provides a place for the trial court to check whether each factor favors one parent or the other, in the following manner:

[ ] both equally; [√] mother over father; [ ] father over mother; [ ] That the parties failed to present proof regarding this, or these, factors.

         Likewise, the trial court's final best interest finding is made in a similar manner:

16. That from the proof the Court finds that it appears to be in the best interest of said child to be placed in the [ ] custody of the father [ ] custody of the mother [ ] foint custody of the mother and father, with the [ ] father [ ] 'mother being the primary residential parent.

         From this order, Father appeals.

         II. Issues Presented

         Father raises three issues, which are taken, and slightly restated, from his brief:

1. Did the trial court properly apply Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-6-106 to its ruling.
2. Did the trial court err in its creation of the parties' parenting schedule.
3. Does the trial court's ruling support the public policy of Tennessee.

         Mother has chosen not to participate in this appeal and did not ...


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