23 May 2013

Tennessee Mother Loses Custody After Not Following Court Order

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Tennessee law case summary on child custody modification in Tennessee family law from the Tennessee Court of Appeals.

Shanette Collier Chandler v. Kylan Chandler – Tennessee custody and change of primary residential parent

This case involves the mother’s appeal to be reinstated as the primary residential parent.  The mother, Shanette Collier Chandler and the father, Kylan Chandler, were divorced in November 2005 and had one child, born in 2002.  The permanent parenting plan designated the mother as the primary residential parent and the father appealed this decision.  In June 2007, the court of appeals reaffirmed the lower court’s ruling.

The father also submitted a request to modify the parenting plan in January 2007.  He asked to be made the primary residential parent, arguing that the mother’s violent behavior towards him and his mother constituted a material change in circumstance, requiring a modification to the plan.  The father claimed the mother had sent several letters to make it appear that the father had threatened her.   The mother’s goal, according to the father, was to obtain an order of protection against him, and interfere with the time permitted him with his child.  The father also claimed the mother had instigated a physical fight with him at their son’s basketball game, for which she was arrested.

The father was temporarily designated as the primary residential parent, following the above incident.  The mother was permitted 8 hours of supervised visitation with the child.  The father, using a private detective, discovered that on one occasion the mother’s visitation was not supervised.  He filed a petition to hold the mother in civil and criminal contempt.  The attorney representing the mother, who was supposed to supervise the visitations, was dismissed and the mother chose to represent herself.

Physical assault on the other parent is a reason to modify the plan

The trial court considered the various factors listed in the Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-6-404(b) in making its determination about a change in custody.  The court specifically considered two factors: (1) the willingness of the parent to allow a close, ongoing relationship with the other parent and; (2) physical abuse to the other parent or other people.  Based on the evidence brought during trial, including many witnesses to the mother’s attempts to thwart the father’s relationship with the child and her physical assaults on the father and his relatives, the court found that there was a material change in the circumstances.  This change warranted a modification of the parenting plan, making the father the primary residential parent.  The mother appealed.

Mother lost appeal because she could not prepare record

The issues regarding custody of the child that the mother asked the appellate court to consider included whether:  the trial court was mistaken in making the father the primary residential parent; there was a change in circumstances and modification of the parenting plan and; the trial court erred when it did not allow the mother to submit documents and testimony which countered the father’s claims.  The mother, however,  did not submit the transcript from the trial court or a statement of the evidence when she submitted her appeal, thus limiting the appeal court’s ability to weigh the evidence.

The Court of Appeals rejected all of the mother’s appeals regarding modification of the plan, custody of the child and the issues of additional testimony and evidence.  If no transcript or statement of evidences is submitted to the appeals court, it is assumed every fact admitted in the lower court was found in favor of the respondent/appellee, and not the appellant.  Therefore, the appeals court had no choice but to uphold the decision of the trial court to modify the parenting plan and affirmed the trial court’s designation of the father as the primary residential parent.

No. W2010-01503-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. June 26, 2012).

See original opinion for exact language.  Legal citations omitted.

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