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Recent Tennessee Court of Appeals Decisions

In Re: Alexis C.
E2013-02498-COA-R3-PT (06/25/14)
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kenneth N. Bailey, Jr.

Jessica C. (“Mother”) and Jesse W. (“Father”) appeal the termination of their parental rights to the minor child Alexis C. (“the Child”). We find and hold that clear and convincing evidence was shown that grounds existed to terminate Mother’s and Father’s parental rights to the Child for abandonment by wanton disregard pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1- 113(g)(1) and Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-102(1)(A)(iv), and for severe abuse pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(4) and Tenn. Code Ann. § 37-1-102, and that clear and convincing evidence was shown that the termination was in the Child’s best interest. We, therefore, affirm the judgment of the Juvenile Court for Greene County (“the Juvenile Court”) terminating Mother’s and Father’s parental rights to the Child.
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Leo Berg v. Julie Ann Rutledge Berg
M2013-00211-COA-R3-CV (06/25/14)
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Derek Smith

In this appeal from a final divorce decree, Wife takes issue with a number of the trial court’s financial decisions. Specifically, Wife contends the trial court erred in the assessment of spousal support, in classifying marital property as Husband’s separate property, in valuing Husband’s woodworking business, in dividing the marital estate, in finding she dissipated the marital estate, in declining to find that Husband dissipated the estate, in failing to sanction Husband for non-production of documents, and by sanctioning her $100,000 under Tenn. R. Civ. P. 37.02 for abuse of discovery. Finally, Wife alleges error in failing to grant the divorce to both parties and contends the trial court should not have verbatim adopted portions of Husband’s proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law as its final judgment. We affirm the trial court’s rulings on these issues. Husband also seeks his attorney’s fees incurred on appeal which we respectfully deny.
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Court: TN Court of Appeals
J. Shannon Garrison, Dayton, Tennessee, for the appellant, A.L.
Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, and Alexander S. Rieger, Assistant Attorney General, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.
A.L. (“Mother”) appeals the termination of her rights with respect to her five minor children (collectively, when referring to all five, “the Children”). The Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) placed the Children in temporary state custody based on the youngest child’s exposure to methamphetamine in utero. The court found that Mother’s conduct constituted severe abuse against that child; consequently, the court relieved DCS of its obligation to make reasonable efforts toward reunification of the Children with Mother. Some 17 months after the Children were placed in foster care, DCS initiated these termination proceedings. After a bench trial, the court terminated Mother’s rights based on its finding of multiple grounds for termination and its further finding that termination is in the best interest of the Children. Both findings were said by the trial court to be made by clear and convincing evidence. Mother appeals. We affirm. cl_052814.pdf

Court: TN Court of Appeals
Philip M. Jacobs, Cleveland, Tennessee, for the appellant, Kirby Miranda Gentry.
No appearance by, or on behalf of, Michael Anthony Gentry.
In this post-divorce case, the trial court entered an order on March 12, 2012, incorporating a permanent parenting plan. The order states that “[t]his matter shall be reviewed in one year.” On April 18, 2013, the court entered an order stating that “the Court, sua sponte, finds that the Permanent Parenting Plan attached to the Order of [March 12, 2012], should in fact be a Temporary Parenting Plan and by this Order [the court] corrects such.” We hold that under Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-6-404(a) (2010), which provides that “[a]ny final decree or decree of modification in an action for absolute divorce . . . involving a minor child shall incorporate a permanent parenting plan,” the parenting plan incorporated by the trial court’s March 12, 2012 order was a permanent plan. Because of the mandatory statutory language, the trial court was without authority to subsequently “convert” it to a temporary parenting plan. Consequently, we reverse the judgment of the trial court. gentryk_052814.pdf

Court: TN Court of Appeals
Perry L. Stout, Mountain City, Tennessee, for the appellant, Scott D. Paterson.
Lisa M. Paterson Potter, Mountain City, Tennessee, appellee, pro se.
Janice A. Russell, Mountain City, Tennessee, Guardian ad Litem for minor, Lauren M. Paterson.

This post-divorce case involves the application of Supreme Court Rule 40A, which governs the appointment, role and duties of a guardian ad litem. The guardian ad litem in this case, Janice Russell, was appointed on November 7, 2008. She filed a motion requesting the court to hold her ward’s father, appellant Scott D. Paterson (“father”), in contempt. After father filed a response pointing out that Rule 40A, § 9(a)(4) did not authorize a guardian ad litem to file a contempt motion, the trial court, in response, entered an order on March 17, 2010, appointing Ms. Russell “attorney ad litem.” Subsequently, Rule 40A, § 9 was amended to allow a guardian ad litem to “take any action that may be taken by an attorney representing a party pursuant to the Rules of Civil Procedure.” After the amendment took effect, Russell referred to herself in her filings as “guardian ad litem.” The trial court followed suit in its final order. On January 20, 2011, the trial court entered an order that disposed of all matters relating to custody of the child. More than a year later, father filed a petition to modify his child support. On May 16, 2013, the guardian ad litem filed a “motion for emergency hearing and motion for contempt.” On May 20, 2013, the trial court conducted a hearing, after which it entered an order holding father in contempt on four counts, sentencing him to 40 days in jail, suspending all of his parenting time, and reducing contact with his daughter to one telephone call per week. Father appeals. We hold that, pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 40A, § 5, the guardian ad litem’s appointment terminated when, with the passage of time, the court’s order disposing of the custody matters became final. Hence, the guardian ad litem had no authority to file her motion for “emergency hearing” and for contempt. We reverse the judgment of the trial court. potterl_052814.pdf

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