The May 12, 2017, Blog entry discussed a Tennessee Supreme Court case (Aragon v. Aragon) interpreting the parent relocation statute found at T.C.A. § 36-6-108. The statute has been re-written by the General Assembly with the changes taking effect on July 1, 2018.
The new statute, like the previous version, requires a parent who is spending time with his/her child under a parenting plan to provide notice if there is an intention to move out of state or more than 50 miles from the other parent. Notice must be provided by registered or certified mail and include a statement about the reason for the move, a disclosure of the new address and a warning that failure to object to the move within thirty (30) days after the date the notice is sent will give the relocating parent permission under the law to move.
The new statute recognizes the fact that long distances may require a change to the parenting plan. Thus, the statute directs the parents to submit a modified parenting plan within thirty (30) days after the notice is sent. If an agreement cannot be reached on a new plan, the relocating parent must file a petition with the court to modify the plan. If the non-relocating parent fails to file a response to the proposed new parenting plan within thirty (30) days, a relocating parent may move with the child.
If the relocation is challenged in court, the court must determine whether the move is in the “best interest” of the child using eight (8) factors listed in the statute, plus additional factors found in T.C.A. § 36-6-106(a). If the relocation is approved, the court will modify the parenting plan if necessary because of the new logistics. If the court finds the relocation should be denied, the court is required to draft a modified parenting plan that will go into effect if the parent decides to relocate anyway. This could mean a change in the primary residential parent designation.
The new statute makes significant changes in how trial courts should review relocation petitions when compared to how the Tennessee Supreme Court said they should be reviewed in Aragon. The Aragon decision stated there should be a presumption in favor of relocation when the parent seeking to relocate had the majority of the parenting time. The new statute could have confirmed this presumption, but it does not. It does not distinguish between parents with a majority or minority share of parenting time.
The factors the courts will look at in determining what is in the best interest of the child have also changed. Of special interest is the “feasibility of preserving the relationship” with the non-relocating parent. The Aragon decision appeared to dismiss this as a significant factor.