Tennessee Court of Appeals vacates juvenile court’s adoption of parenting plan and determination of child support because of insufficient findings

The Tennessee Court of Appeals recently vacated a Montgomery County Juvenile Court’s adoption of a parenting plan and determination of child support because the juvenile court made insufficient findings of fact and conclusions of law.  The juvenile court’s findings of fact were as follows:

1. That the Court has considered the factors in Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-6-101
2. That the factors enumerated in Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-6-101 [sic] weigh
in favor of the Petitioner;
3. That the Court specifically finds that the [Mother] is a loving and caring
mother and has been the only parent that is a stable part in the minor child’s
4. That the [Mother] is hereby designated as the Primary Residential Parent;
5. That the [Father] voluntarily left the [Mother] and minor child in
Clarksville, Tennessee, to move back with his parents in Florida;
6. That the parties had established a life in Clarksville, Tennessee, to
include building a home, purchasing cars, and receiving healthcare of the
minor child;
7. That the [Mother’s] Permanent Parenting Plan is hereby adopted and
incorporated as part of this final order.

8. That the [Mother’s] income is imputed at minimum wage[] . . .
($1,256.00) for child support purposes, and the [Father’s] income is . . .
($2,080.00), and child support shall be based upon the Tennessee Child
Support Guidelines;
9. That child support shall be paid through the Child Support Receiving
Unit starting on May 1, 2016;
10. That no child support arrearage exists at the date of this hearing;
11. That the [Mother] and [Father] lived in a home together in Clarksville,
Tennessee, where the [Mother] and minor child still reside;
12. That the [Mother] and minor child must vacate the residence on or
before May 1, 2016;
13. That the [Mother] may continue using the [Father’s] vehicle until May
1, 2016; and
14. The [Mother] must return the [Father’s] car on or before May 1, 2016.

Reviewing the applicable case law, the appellate court stated that the required findings are particularly important in cases involving the custody and parenting schedule of children.  While the trial court need not list every applicable statutory factor and accompanying conclusion, the written order must provide enough information for the reviewing court to discern what legal standard the trial court applied or what reasoning it employed.  In this case, the court of appeals was “left to wonder how the juvenile court reached its decision to award parenting time to the parties; what legal standard it applied; and what statutory factors were considered.”  Therefore, the Tennessee Court of Appeals vacated the juvenile court’s order adopting the parenting plan and setting child support and remanded for the trial court to issue a proper order for the parenting plan and to conduct an evidentiary hearing on child support.

In re Briley R., No. M2016-01968-COA-R3-JV (Tenn. Ct. App. Oct. 31, 2017)

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