Tennessee child custody modification case summary.
Kendra C. Killian v. Aubrey D. Moore
The parents in this Wilson County, Tennessee, case were divorced in 2011, after their daughter was born in 2009. The mother was named the primary residential parent, and the father was initially awarded zero days of parenting time, although the parties were asked to agree to parenting time based upon his work schedule. The father’s parenting time was gradually increased over the years, and both parties remarried.
At one point, the father learned that the mother had obtained an order of protection against her new husband. This was based upon allegations that he was a heroin addict and self-mutilator, and that he had made threats to kill the child. The husband had also obtained an order of protection against the mother.
Based upon these facts, the trial court awarded the father temporary custody, and a hearing was set for two weeks later. At hearing, the court continued the father’s custody, and granted the mother video visitation every other night, on the condition that the new husband not take part in these video calls.
After another hearing, the father’s custody was continued, and he was given permission to enroll the child in the school that served his residence. He was also made responsible for day-to-day care and decision making.
The mother was granted visitation supervised by the maternal grandmother, but at some point, the grandmother contacted the guardian ad litem and stated that she was not comfortable supervising the visitation. This prompted the mother to get very upset and accused the grandmother of being part of a conspiracy with the father and guardian ad litem. The mother followed up with numerous petitions asked to be restored custody of the child. Eventually, she was granted parenting time every other weekend and alternating Wednesdays.
Eventually, a multiple-day trial was held, during which the trial court ordered a psychological evaluation of the child, after troubling drawings by the child were submitted by the mother. The trial court named the father the primary residential parent, and gave him 245 days of parenting time.
After this order, the mother filed a motion to be named primary residential parent. This motion was based on allegations that the father had purchased the child a phone, and that the phone’s history contained hundreds of searches for porn, guns, ammo, and other inappropriate material.
This motion was denied, and ultimately, the guardian ad litem requested an order to limit the mother’s parenting time. This was based on threats the mother had made to harm or kill the father, and that she had rekindled the relationship with the new husband. That motion was granted, and mother’s visitation was solely at the father’s discretion, and not in the mother’s home.
In its final order, the trial court held that there had been a material change of circumstances, and that the mother was no longer able to parent the child without causing damage. The mother received zero days of parenting time, but was allowed contact by text, phone, and video calls two days per week. The mother was also ordered to pay child support in the amount of $429 per month.
The mother appealed to the Tennessee Court of Appeals, but while the appeal was pending, she brought another emergency motion, which the trial court continued indefinitely.
The mother, acting as her own attorney, raised 14 separate issues on the appeal, and the appeals court pointed out that he disorganized brief made it difficult for the court to review the case. Accordingly, it deemed most of the issues waived. It did address the court’s jurisdiction, since the mother claimed she had not been properly notified when the case was moved from another county. But the court held that the jurisdiction was proper.
The mother also argued that she was denied Due Process because she was not notified of the issues of the case. But the court noted that she had been informed at least six times that the father was asking to be named primary residential parent, and that this was sufficient.
The court did examine the facts of the case and concluded that the trial court had sufficient evidence that the mother’s mental health constituted a material change of circumstances. In addition, it held that the remarriage constituted a material change of circumstances, and that the change was in the child’s best interests.
Finally, the mother argued that the trial judge should have recused herself, but the appeals court held that this issue was without merit. For these reasons, the Court of Appeals affirmed.
No. M2020-01283-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Feb. 15, 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?