After a divorce has been settled, changes to child custody arrangements may only be granted by the courts in certain circumstances. The Court of Appeals of Tennessee recently reviewed a case involving the modification of a permanent parenting plan in Williamson v. Lamm (Tenn. Ct. App. Sept. 30, 2016). In Williamson, the parties originally shared equal parenting time, with the mother designated as the primary residential parent. The mother filed a petition to modify the parenting schedule, arguing that since the child had reached school age, the distance between the parents made the current schedule unworkable. The father objected to the petition and requested that he be named the primary residential parent. After a hearing, the trial court established a new parenting schedule and changed the primary residential parent to the father. The mother appealed the order.
In Tennessee, all final divorce decrees involving a minor child must include a permanent parenting plan. Absent an agreement, the parties must comply with the parenting plan unless it is modified by the court. The court must follow a two-step process in determining whether a modification is appropriate. First, the court considers whether a material change in circumstances has occurred since the adoption of the current parenting plan. If so, the count will then examine statutorily enumerated factors in deciding whether a modification is in the child’s best interest.