Aragon v. AragonAnnotate this Case
The trial court entered a divorce decree between Mother and Father that incorporated an agreed parenting plan that did not designate a primary residential parent. After the divorce, Father spent the majority of the residential parenting time with the parties’ child. Father later filed a petition asking the trial court to modify the parenting plan to permit him to move with the child to Arizona because he had secured a job in an area where he and the child would live near family. After a trial, the trial court concluded that Father did not have a “reasonable purpose” for the relocation under Tennessee’s parental relocation statute, Tenn. Code Ann. 36-6-108. The court then entered a modified parenting plan designating Mother as the primary residential parent. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Webster v. Webster is overruled insofar as it misconstrued the meaning of the term “reasonable purpose” as used in the parental relocation statute; and (2) under the natural and ordinary meaning of the term “reasonable purpose,” Father stated a reasonable purpose for relocating with the parties’ child to Arizona, and Mother did not establish a ground for denying Father permission to relocate with the child. Remanded.
Authoring Judge: Justice Holly Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ross H. Hicks
In this post-divorce litigation, we granted permission to appeal to address the standard for determining what constitutes a reasonable purpose for a parent s relocation with the parties child under Tennessee s parental relocation statute, Tennessee Code Annotated 36-6-108. In this case, the father spent the majority of the residential parenting time with the parties child. He sought to move with the child to Arizona because he had secured an advantageous job in an area where he and the child would live near his parents and his extended family and have their support, and where he and the child would live near some of the mother s extended family as well. The trial court held that the father did not have a reasonable purpose for the relocation. In a divided opinion, the Court of Appeals affirmed. The dissent in the Court of Appeals questioned the interpretation of the term reasonable purpose used by the majority, which originated in a prior Court of Appeals decision, Webster v. Webster, No. W2005-01288-COA-R3CV, 2006 WL 3008019 (Tenn. Ct. App. Oct. 24, 2006), that construed the term reasonable purpose to mean one that is significant or substantial when weighed against the loss to the parent opposing the relocation. We overrule Webster insofar as it misconstrued the meaning of the term reasonable purpose as used in Tennessee s parental relocation statute. Under the natural and ordinary meaning of the term reasonable purpose, we hold that the father stated a reasonable purpose for relocating to Arizona with the parties child and that the mother did not carry her burden of establishing a ground for denying the father permission to relocate with the child. Under section 36-6-108(d)(1), [t]he parent spending the greater amount of time with the child shall be permitted to relocate with the child unless the court finds that the parent opposing the relocation has proven one of the enumerated grounds. Because the mother did not prove a ground to deny permission to relocate, we reverse the trial court s denial of permission for the father to relocate to Arizona with the child, and we also reverse the trial court s modification of the parties parenting plan to designate the mother as the primary residential parent. On remand, the trial court is authorized to fashion an appropriate transitional parenting plan that results, within a reasonable time, in designating the father as the primary residential parent and permitting him to live in Arizona with the parties child. Accordingly, we reverse the trial court and the Court of Appeals and remand the case to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion.