Tennessee parent relocation granted case summary.
Westley Murel Hall v. Megan Leigh Hall
The mother and father in this Sumner County, Tennessee, case were divorced in 2019 and were the parents of one child, born in 2015. Under their agreed-to permanent parenting plan, the mother was named the primary residential parent, with the father exercising 95 days per year of co-parenting time.
In 2020, the mother filed a petition seeking permission to relocate with the child to Ohio. She was engaged to a man living in Ashville, Ohio, about 300 miles away from her Tennessee home.
The father opposed the petition, and also requested modification on the grounds of the child being ready to start school, and his change in employment. A trial was held via video conference. The trial court found that the move would augment the mother and child’s quality of life, because the new husband earned a good income. The father was granted 97 days per year of parenting time, and ordered both parents to share in transportation. The mother was also awarded attorney’s fees of over $12,000, and the father appealed to the Tennessee Court of Appeals.
After addressing the standard of review, the court turned to the relocation issue, and quoted the Tennessee parental relocation statute, and noted that the lower court had followed the factors outlined in the statute.
The appeals court thoroughly reviewed the evidence. It noted that the mother had a strong bond, and was the primary caregiver. The father, while regarded as a good parent, had a demanding work schedule.
All of the child’s grandparents lived in Tennessee, and the court noted this was an important factor. But overall, the evidence weighed in favor of the mother.
There were no special needs involved, and the new parenting plan actually gave the father more parenting time.
On the improvement of the child’s quality of life, the appeals court also noted that the mother’s new husband had significant income and assets, and also that the mother had a slightly higher earning capacity in Ohio. For these reasons, the Court of Appeals affirmed the relocation order, as well as the other modifications to the permanent parenting plan.
The father was somewhat more successful when it came to the award of attorney’s fees. The Court of Appeals held that the lower court had not made sufficient findings to allow proper review of the decision. For that reason, it remanded the case to the lower court to make sufficient findings of fact to support the award.
For these reasons, the Court of Appeals affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded the case.
No. M2021–00757-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. May 24, 2022).
See original opinion for exact language. Legal citations omitted.
To learn more, see Modifying Custody & Parenting Plans and our video, How is child custody determined in Tennessee?
To learn more, see Tennessee Parent Relocation Statute Law.