The parents were divorced in 2012. They were both named co-primary residential parents of their children, who were 11 and 7 years old at the time of trial. Each parent received equal visitation time. The parenting arrangements proved contentious, and the mother went back to court asking to be named the exclusive primary residential parent. The father made the same request, and the matter was set for a court hearing. After hearing, the trial court granted the father’s request.
At the time of the original divorce, both parents lived in North Chattanooga. The father remarried, had another daughter, and moved to Signal Mountain. The mother was living with a close friend, who was also the children’s pediatrician.
The mother was an avid rock climber who also coached rock climbing. The main issue at trial was whether the mother had neglected the children’s educational needs in favor of rock climbing.
The mother testified that rock climbing was a key part of the children’s lives. The father, on the other hand, believed that the rock climbing was being done to the exclusion of all other activities.
The trial court found that the mother “seems obsessed with rock climbing,” and noted that the children normally participated in rock climbing before beginning their homework, which sometimes was not completed. It noted that the mother did not seem overly concerned with the children’s education.
After the father was named primary residential parent, the mother appealed to the Tennessee Court of Appeals, which first agreed that there had been a material change of circumstances. It then turned to the issue of whether the trial court had acted in the best interests of the children. It found that the most relevant factor in this case was the disposition of each parent to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, education, and other necessary care.
The appeals court then reviewed the evidence and concluded that the evidence did not preponderate against the trial court’s findings. The lower court had credited the father’s testimony that the mother had an excessive interest on rock climbing at the expense of other activities, including education.
This certainly does not mean that your children shouldn’t participate in sports. Rather, it reminds us that the courts expect a healthy balance between education and extracurricular activities. As in this case, if education is neglected you may be in danger of losing parenting time.