Domestic (Family Law) Cases

Parent / Child Relocation over Objection

Except as indicated, all indented material is copied directly from the court’s opinion. 

Decisions of the Tennessee Supreme Court

Decisions of the Tennessee Court of Appeals

Carden v. Carden, No. E2022-00721-COA-R3-CV,  p. 4 (Tenn. Ct. App. Oct. 4, 2023). 

Parental relocation issues are tried to the trial court sitting without a jury; therefore, we review the case de novo upon the record with a presumption of correctness of the findings of fact by the trial court, unless the preponderance of the evidence is otherwise. See Tenn. R. App. P. 13(d); Armbrister v. Armbrister, 414 S.W.3d 685, 692 (Tenn. 2013). Conclusions of law are reviewed de novo with no presumption of correctness. Id. custody matters, trial courts are given wide discretion and appellate courts will not interfere unless there is a showing of erroneous exercise of that discretion. See Johnson v. Johnson, 165 S.W.3d 640, 645 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2004). Also, because “custody and visitation determinations often hinge on subtle factors, including the parents’ demeanor and credibility … appellate courts are reluctant to second-guess a trial court’s decisions.” Id. Finally, the court’s paramount concern in a custody case is the welfare and best interest of the minor children. Id.

Nance v. Franklin, No. M2021-00161-COA-R3-JV, p. 4 (Tenn. Ct. App. Sept. 15, 2022).

In non-jury cases such as this one, we review the trial court’s factual findings de novo upon the record, affording them a presumption of correctness unless the evidence preponderates otherwise. See Tenn. R. App. P. 13(d); Armbrister v. Armbrister, 414 S.W.3d 685, 692 (Tenn. 2013). We review questions of law de novo, affording the trial court’s decision no presumption of correctness. Armbrister, 414 S.W.3d at 692 (citing Mills v. Fulmarque, 360 S.W.3d 362, 366 (Tenn. 2012)). The trial court’s determinations regarding witness credibility are entitled to great weight on appeal and shall not be disturbed absent clear and convincing evidence to the contrary. Morrison v. Allen, 338 S.W.3d 417, 426 (Tenn. 2011).

Hall v. Hall, No. M2021-00757-COA-R3-CV, p. 4 (Tenn. Ct. App. May 24, 2022).

As this Court has explained concerning issues of parental relocation:

In July 2018, the Tennessee General Assembly amended Tennessee’s relocation statute, Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-6-108. According to our research, this Court has applied the amended statute in only two other cases, Dungey [v. Dungey], [No. M2020-00277-COA-R3- CV,] 2020 WL 5666906 [(Tenn. Ct. App. Sept. 23, 2020)] and Schaeffer [v. Patterson], [No. W2018-02097-COA-R3-JV,] 2019 WL 6824903 [(Tenn. Ct. App. Dec. 13, 2019)]. In these cases, we explained that the previous relocation statute “often required courts to conduct an analysis of whether the parents were spending ‘substantially equal intervals of time’ with the child and whether the parent seeking relocation demonstrated a ‘reasonable purpose’ for the proposed move.” Dungey, 2020 WL 5666906, at *2; see also Schaeffer, 2019 WL 6824903, at *4-5. The amendment removed the “substantially equal intervals of time” and “reasonable purpose” criteria from the trial court’s analysis. Dungey, 2020 WL 5666906, at *2. As noted in Dungey, the current version of the statute “restore[s] a significant amount of discretion to trial courts and does not contain a presumption either for or against relocation.” Dungey, 2020 WL 5666906, at *2 n.1.

Franklin v. Franklin, No. W2020-00285-COA-R3-CV, 2021 WL 5500722, at *2 (Tenn. Ct. App. Nov. 24, 2021). Inasmuch as parental relocation decisions involve “significant” trial court discretion, these decisions should be reviewed pursuant to an abuse of discretion standard. “An abuse of discretion occurs when the trial court . . . appl[ies] an incorrect legal standard, reaches an illogical result, resolves the case on a clearly erroneous assessment of the evidence, or relies on reasoning that causes an injustice.” Gonsewski v. Gonsewski, 350 S.W.3d 99, 105 (Tenn. 2011).

In re Autumn H., No. M2020-01214-COA-R3-JV, p. 11 (Tenn. Ct. App. Mar. 29, 2022).

Our review is de novo upon the record, accompanied by a presumption of correctness of the findings of fact of the trial court, unless the preponderance of the evidence is otherwise. Tenn. R. App. P. 13(d); Kelly v. Kelly, 445 S.W.3d 685, 692 (Tenn. 2014). A trial court’s conclusions of law are subject to a de novo review with no presumption of correctness. Kelly, 445 S.W.3d at 692


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