Jun 30, 2022
Mom Handed Attorney Fee Bill After Lying In Court About Drinking
Tennessee child custody modification and attorney’s fees case summary.
Mother had missed a required test on New Year’s Eve, and she allowed her attorney to state in court that she missed the test because she was asleep.
When the parties in this Williamson County, Tennessee, case divorced in 2014, the trial court entered a permanent parenting plan under which the mother was named primary residential parent. She was also awarded decision making authority and the majority of the parenting time. The father was ordered to pay $511 per month in child support.
There was additional litigation between the parties, which culminated in the father’s filing a petition to change custody. He alleged that the mother was abusing alcohol. The mother admitted to having concerns, and had received both inpatient and outpatient treatment.
Initially, the trial court ordered her to refrain from alcohol, and also ordered an interlock device on her car and her husband’s car. It also ordered testing. The parenting time was not modified, however.
A few months later, the father renewed his motion and alleged that there had been a material change of circumstances that that the mother was not maintaining sobriety. A hearing was held, and there was evidence that the mother had consumed alcohol on a number of occasions.
The trial court issued an order with a number of conditions, including a reduction of the mother’s parenting time. The husband then asked for his attorney’s fees, and he was awarded over $36,000. The mother then appealed to the Tennessee Court of Appeals.
The appeals court noted that an award of attorney’s fees was discretionary, and that an award will be upheld unless the trial court abused that discretion.
In this case, the trial court had held that the majority of the litigation was caused by the mother’s bad decisions. In particular, it had turned out that the mother had lied on the first round of hearings. She had missed a required test on New Year’s Eve, and she allowed her attorney to state in court that she missed the test because she was asleep. But when the case went to court the second time, it was revealed that she had actually been drinking that night.
The trial court also found that it was the mother’s unreasonable requests and behavior that caused the case to be delayed unnecessarily.
The appeals court reviewed the evidence and held that there was ample evidence to support the trial court’s award of attorney fees.
The mother pointed out that she was partially successful in some of the litigation, and for that reason, an award of fees was not appropriate. But the appeals court dismissed this argument, noting that the purpose of attorney’s fees in child support matters was to ensure the child’s access to the courts.
Both parties asked for attorney’s fees on appeal, but the request was denied.
For these reasons, the lower court’s decision was affirmed, and the case remanded.
No. M2021–00591-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. May 9, 2022).
See original opinion for exact language. Legal citations omitted.
See original article here: https://memphisdivorce.com/tennessee-attorneys-fees/mom-handed-attorney-fee-bill-after-lying-in-court-about-drinking/