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The trial court further found it was in the children’s best interest that custody be changed to Father. The trial court conducted the required best-interest analysis and, again, ruled to change custody from Mother to Father. And for the second time, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court. Specifically, the Court of Appeals found the trial court based much of its analysis on its finding that Mother’s work as a sex worker was ongoing, which finding the Court of Appeals found to be entirely speculative and contradicted by the evidence.Notably, the trial court conducted no statutory best-interest analysis of any sort. The Court of Appeals remanded the case to the trial court to conduct the statutory best-interest analysis. The Court of Appeals ordered Father to deliver the children to Mother in Nevada “no later than 20 days following the entry of this order.” Father petitioned for rehearing in the Court of Appeals regarding execution of the 20-day mandate, or in the alternative, a motion for a stay to permit him time to file a Rule 11 application for permission to appeal.Shortly thereafter, Father petitioned to change custody because the agreed parenting plan was procured by fraud.
By declining to defer to the juvenile court on this matter, the Court of Appeals improperly served the role of the [trial] court. Accordingly, it failed to accurately apply the standard of review and committed reversible error.
Appellate courts should only reverse custody decisions when the trial court’s ruling falls outside the spectrum of rulings that might reasonably result from applying the correct legal standards to the evidence.
Applying this limited standard of review, the Supreme Court viewed the evidence differently than the Court of Appeals: Based upon its observations of the witnesses at trial, the [trial] court concluded that Mother “lacked integrity” on several issues.
Without explanation, the Court of Appeals summarily denied Father’s petition and motion.
Father’s request for permission to appeal was granted by the Tennessee Supreme Court.