Failing to Encourage a Relationship Between Your Child and the Other Parent Could Cost you Equal Parenting Time: Taylor v. Knott

NashvilleChildCustodyLawyers

Facts

The Mother and Father in this case were never married, though they had 2 children together. A parenting plan was entered by the trial court in 2005, and this plan designated the Father as the Primary Residential Parent. However, in 2007 the plan was modified to give the parties equal parenting time.

Three years later, in 2010, the Father petitioned the court to modify the parties’ plan, claiming that the Mother had agreed to care for their children while the Father vacationed in Mexico. However, despite this promise, the Mother informed him that she would not keep the children after he arrived in Mexico, and she threatened to allow the children to go into state custody if the Father did not provide for their care. The Father, therefore, purchased a ticket to return home early from Mexico. Mother later claimed that she made a “good faith effort to care for the children during the Father’s parenting time.”

The court saw it differently, though, finding that:
(1) The Mother deliberately sabotaged Father’s vacation by agreeing to keep the children and only changing her mind after he left the country;
(2) Mother was unwilling to co-parent and unable to share in activities when the Father and Stepmother were present;
(3) The actions of the Mother, and her comments, were increasingly noticed by the parties’ children;
(4) Although Mother accused Father of being controlling and harassing, the proof did not support this allegation. In fact, the proof indicated that she was the one that was controlling and harassing.

The trial court found that, “It is obvious that Mother loves the boys. It is also obvious that she is not willing to work with others in their lives and cannot put her jealousy and insecurity aside for the betterment of the boys.” The court further stated that the parents were equal with one “very important exception”, which is that the Mother repeatedly proved to the Court that “she is either unwilling or unable to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the children and the other parent, consistent with the best interest of the children.”

The trial court decided that a change in the parenting schedule was in the children’s best interest, and the court reduced the Mother’s parenting time to every other weekend, alternating holidays and 2 weeks during the summer. The court also ordered the Mother to reimburse Father for his return ticket from Mexico and for his attorney’s fees.

On Appeal

When a parent appeals a decision related to the modification of a parenting plan, the appellate court must determine whether a material change in circumstances affecting the child’s best interest has occurred since the adoption of the parties’ current parenting plan. If a material change has occurred, the court then makes a determination of what is in the child’s best interest.

The Court of Appeals found that the record supported a finding that there had been a change in circumstances due to the escalating conflict between the parents. The Court of Appeals stated that, “The evidence . . . fully support[s] the court’s conclusion that Mother is bitter, and we agree that this bitterness has, in turn, prevented Mother from being able to encourage a relationship between the children and Father.” The court noted that the children were experiencing anxiety and discomfort as a result of the Mother’s actions. Therefore, the trial court’s decision was affirmed.

Information provided by Lauren Wilson Castles. If you are having issues with the other parent not encouraging a healthy, loving relationship between you and your child, contact our office today to set up your free consultation!

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