On March 16, 2017, the Tennessee Supreme Court reinforced the requirements outlined in the Tennessee Parental Relocation Statute for a parent with a parenting plan who wants to relocate with the child or children.
This case involved a Clarksville, Tennessee couple who divorced in 2010 with one young daughter. In their parenting plan, the father spent more time taking care of their daughter while the mother worked abroad. In 2012, the father notified the mother that he would like to relocate to Arizona to take a nursing job and be closer to family for support. The mother objected to the proposed move.
Parental Relocation in Tennessee: A Brief Background
Let us give you a little background about this procedure. The “Parental Relocation” statute (found at Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-6-108) contains the steps a parent with shared custody must take before moving. This law is in place to prevent one parent from taking the child/children without the consent of the other parent and the court. If a parent wants to relocate, they need to start by sending a notice by certified mail to the other parent, which includes:
Statement of intent to move
Location of proposed new residence
Reason for proposed relocation
Statement that the other parent may file a petition in opposition to the move within thirty (30) days of receipt of the notice
-Tenn. Code Ann § 36-6-108
Additionally, unless both parents agree on a new visitation schedule, a petition must be filed with the court to change the parenting plan. If there is no opposition filed within 30 days of the other parent receiving notice, the petitioning parent may move away with the child/children.
What the Courts Decided
Back to the case: After the mother objected, the case went to trial. Ultimately, the Chancery Court in Montgomery County denied the father’s request to move to Arizona with the child. The Court asserted that the father did not try hard enough to find a job in Tennessee. The court then named the mother, who was back in Tennessee, as the child’s primary residential parent. The father appealed, then lost at the Court of Appeals level. The father appealed again. The Tennessee Supreme Court reversed the decision, granting permission to the father to relocate.
The Supreme Court reinforced Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-6-108, which says that the court should allow the parent who spends more time with the child to relocate, barring an objection by the other parent on the grounds that:
The proposed move would pose a threat of serious harm to the child
The relocating parent’s move is vindictive
The move does not have a reasonable purpose
Since the father’s motives did not pose a threat of harm and were not vindictive, and his move did have a reasonable purpose (to gain employment and be near the support network of his family), the mother did not have any grounds on which to object. In a unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court of TN ordered that the father be named the primary residential parent and granted permission for the father to relocate to Arizona with the child. You can read the full opinion here.
If you plan to relocate with your child and share custody, be sure you are following the correct procedures to ensure everything goes as smoothly as possible. Contact Lewis Williams at 615-255-2893 if you have questions before you plan to move. He is an expert in Divorce and Family Law.