Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 09/30/2014
Format: 09/30/2014
In Re K.N.B., et al
E2014-00191-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark Toohey

R.H.R. (“Father”) appeals the trial court’s judgment terminating his parental rights to his daughter, K.N.B., and to another child, S.M.J. (collectively “the Children”). Father is the putative biological father of S.M.J. The Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) removed the Children and two half-siblings from their mother’s home and placed them in protective custody after police discovered them living in deplorable conditions. They were placed in foster care and subsequently adjudicated dependent and neglected. A year and a half later, DCS filed a petition to terminate parental rights. After a bench 1 trial, the court terminated Father’s parental rights to K.N.B. based on the court’s finding that abandonment grounds were proven by clear and convincing evidence. As to S.M.J., the court terminated Father’s rights based upon his failure to establish paternity. The trial court further found, also by clear and convincing evidence, that termination is in the best interest of the Children. Father appeals.2 He argues, with respect to S.M.J., that the evidence is insufficient. With respect to K.N.B., he asserts that he was incarcerated during a portion of the four-month period immediately preceding the filing of the petition to terminate and, consequently, DCS and the trial court erred in relying upon that four-month period in assessing the grounds of willful failure to visit and willful failure to support. He does not contest the trial court’s best-interest determination. We affirm as to the child S.M.J. and reverse as to K.N.B.

Sullivan County Court of Appeals 09/30/14
MSK Construction, Inc. v. Mayse Construction Company
E2014-00139-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jerri S. Bryant

This is a breach of an oral contract action in which MSK filed suit against Mayse for failure to pay for the use of equipment and fuel used to fulfill a construction contract between Mayse and the City of Athens. Mayse denied liability. Following a bench trial, the trial court ruled in favor of MSK and awarded damages in the amount of $44,386.37 and prejudgment interest in the amount of $1231.39. Mayse appeals. We affirm the decision of the trial court.

McMinn County Court of Appeals 09/30/14
Stephen Michael West, et al. v. Derrick D. Schofield, et al.
M2014-00320-COA-R9-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman

This case asks us to interpret an exception to the Tennessee Public Records Act, Tennessee
Code Annotated section 10-7-504(h), to determine whether it creates a privilege protecting
the identities of persons involved in carrying out a sentence of death from pretrial discovery.
This question arises from litigation in which Appellees, who are death row inmates,
challenge the constitutionality of the Tennessee Department of Correction’s Execution
Procedures for Lethal Injection on various grounds. In prosecuting their case, Appellees
requested the identities of certain John Doe Defendants involved in the execution process,
but the State refused to produce this information. On a motion to compel, the trial court
ordered the disclosure of the John Doe Defendants’ identities subject to an agreed protective
order. We find the information sought by Appellees is relevant and is not privileged under
Tennessee Code Annotated section 10-7-504(h). The decision of the trial court is affirmed.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/29/14
Amber L. Bilbrey v. Melissa Lynn Parks
E2013-02808-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amy V. Hollars

This negligence case arises out of a car accident. Plaintiff Amber L. Bilbrey, while driving from Mayland to Monterey with her boyfriend and her aunt, ran out of gas. They turned around and tried to get the car back to Mayland by a combination of “running on fumes” and pushing the car. When they could push no longer, Bilbrey parked the car on the side of the road. Because there was a parallel ditch on the shoulder of the road, a part of the parked car extended into the roadway. Bilbrey stayed with the car while the others went for gas. The defendant, Melissa Lynn Parks, was driving toward Mayland and ran into the back of Bilbrey’s car, causing injury to both of them. After a five-day trial, the jury returned a verdict finding both Bilbrey and Parks to be 50% at fault. The trial court entered a judgment in accordance with the jury verdict. The issues raised on appeal are whether the trial court erred in admitting (1) the deposition testimony of Bilbrey’s boyfriend after the court found him “unavailable” because he was allegedly more than 100 miles from the courthouse, and (2) the testimony of a state trooper regarding the content of a voice message sent by Bilbrey to her boyfriend shortly before the accident. Finding no prejudicial error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Cumberland County Court of Appeals 09/29/14
Leroy Stocklin, Jr. v. Karen R. Lord Et Al.
E2013-02320-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge L. Marie Williams

Plaintiff Leroy Stocklin, Jr., served a non-wage garnishment on Carol Dean, in her capacity as executrix of her mother’s estate, in an attempt to reach the interest of an estate beneficiary, Karen R. Lord. Lord, who is Dean’s sister, is a $10,348 judgment debtor of Stocklin by virtue of a general sessions court judgment. Dean’s attorney acknowledged proper service of the garnishment and represented that it would be satisfied from Lord’s portion of the
estate. Dean failed to timely answer the garnishment as required by statute. She later filed an answer denying that she, as executrix, had in her possession or control any property, debts or effects belonging to Lord. Between (a) the date of service of the garnishment and (b) Dean’s answer, Dean distributed monies to Lord, as a portion of her inheritance, well in excess of the garnishment amount. The trial court entered judgment against Dean under Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-7-112 (2012), which provides for a judgment against a garnishee “[i]f it appears that the garnishee . . . has property and effects of the defendant [debtor] subject to the attachment.” Dean appeals. We affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 09/29/14
Dennis Michael Christie v. Shannon Denise Christie
M2014-01647-COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge James G. Martin, III

In this post-divorce proceeding, Wife has filed an interlocutory appeal as of right pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10B from the trial court’s denial of a motion for recusal. After reviewing Wife’s petition for recusal appeal de novo as required under Rule 10B, we summarily affirm the trial court’s denial of the motion.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 09/26/14
Bringle Farms Partnership v. State of Tennessee
M2013-02278-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Robert N. Hibbett, Commisioner, Tenn. Claims Commission

This is a breach of contract case arising from a crop lease entered into between a farming entity and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (“the TWRA”). The five-year lease required the lessee to pay rent for the right to farm the land; however, the lessee would receive a credit provided he timely planted and harvested an agreed upon amount and type of waterfowl food crop to feed wildlife. The lessee would also receive a credit for providing agreed upon “in-kind services.” After the second year, the TWRA terminated the lease for, inter alia, non-payment of rent, failure to timely plant crops, and failure to remove trash. The lessee filed this claim alleging the TWRA wrongfully terminated the five-year lease with three years remaining for which it sought damages for lost profits. The TWRA counterclaimed for unpaid rent and damage to the property. The claims commission found the TWRA did not terminate the lease for cause; therefore, the lessee was entitled to seek damages for lost profits; however, the commission found the lessee failed to prove its damages. As for the TWRA’s counterclaims, the commission found the lease ambiguous regarding the payment of rent, and after considering parol evidence, it determined the parties intended the performance of in-kind services would reduce the rent to zero. Therefore, the commission denied the TWRA’s counterclaim for unpaid rent. As for damage to the property, the commission found the lessee damaged the property for which it awarded the TWRA $1,743.30. Both parties appealed. We have concluded the TWRA terminated the lease for cause due to material breaches by the lessee; therefore, the lessee is not entitled to damages.We have also concluded that the lease provision regarding rentand in-kind services is unambiguous and that the lessee failed to provide in-kind services sufficient to offset all of the rent that was owing; therefore, the TWRA is entitled to recover the balance owed on the rent. Accordingly, we affirm in part and reverse in part, and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Court of Appeals 09/26/14
Noranda Aluminum, Inc. v. Golden Aluminum Extrusiion, LLC, Et Al.
M2013-02274-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robbie T. Beal

The issue in this appeal is whether the trial court properly held that companies A and B could not be held liable for the allegedly fraudulent sale of equipment by company C because the equipment at issue was fully encumbered by a lien at the time of the sale and, therefore, did not qualify as an asset under the Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act. We affirm the trial court’s decision.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 09/26/14
Guy Hawkins v. Diana Le-Hawkins
M2013-02068-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Vanessa Jackson

The principal issue in this appeal is whether a marital dissolution agreement the parties entered into while Wife’s complaint for a legal separation was pending was enforceable in an action husband commenced for an absolute divorce six days after Wife voluntarily dismissed her complaint. In Husband’s subsequent action, from which this appeal arises, Wife contested the divorce and challenged the validity of the MDA claiming it was not entered into in contemplation of Husband filing this action; she also contended it was invalid because Husband did not disclose all of his assets. The trial court found the MDA was valid because it was entered into without fraud or duress and with full knowledge of all the parties’ assets, granted a divorce, and divided the marital estate pursuant to the MDA. Wife appeals, contending that the MDA does not comply with Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-4-103, which expressly directs that “a divorce may be granted on the grounds of irreconcilable differences where there has been a contest or denial,if a properlyexecuted marital dissolution agreement is presented to the court.” To constitute a properly executed marital dissolution agreement, an MDA must be entered into in compliance with Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-4-103(a)(2), which expressly requires, inter alia, that an MDA be entered into in regards to a pending divorce or in contemplation of one being filed. Wife claims that the MDA was entered into in regards to a legal separation, and not in contemplation of divorce. The language of the MDA clearly reveals that the parties expressly contemplated a divorce and that the agreement would be incorporated in any decree of divorce that may ensue. Moreover, the evidence does not preponderate against the trial court’s finding that the parties entered into the MDA without fraud or duress and with full knowledge of the parties’ assets;therefore,the MDA constitutes a properly executed marital dissolution agreement for purposes of this action and is a valid and binding agreement upon the parties. Accordingly, we affirm.

Coffee County Court of Appeals 09/26/14
In Re Conservatorship of Alfonso B. Patton
M2012-01078-COA -R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Randall Kennedy

This case involves the authority of an attorney-in-fact to make gifts pursuant to a power of attorney. We agree with the trial court’s determination that, in accordance with Tenn. Code Ann.§ 34-6-110(a),the power of attorney did notauthorize the attorney-in-factto make gifts.
 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/26/14
In Re CBL & Associates Properties, Inc., et al.
E2013-02851-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Neil Thomas, III

This action involves subpoenas issued in a Massachusetts divorce case and served upon Tennessee business entities as well as individuals domiciled in Tennessee. The wife has family members, including her father, who live in Tennessee, and she also allegedly owns an interest in certain Tennessee companies. The husband requested that subpoenas be issued by the Massachusetts court where the divorce was pending to be served upon the Tennessee residents and companies. Regarding the individuals, the husband sought to discover whether provisions had been made for the wife in any of their estate plans. Regarding the businesses, the husband sought to discover the nature and value of the wife’s interests therein. The Tennessee individuals and companies filed separate motions seeking to quash all subpoenas. The trial court entered an order quashing the subpoena issued to the wife’s father and holding in abeyance the subpoenas issued to the wife’s other relatives. The order also provides that the subpoenas issued to the business entities would be addressed at a future hearing. The husband filed a motion asking the trial court to reconsider its ruling pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 59. The trial court entered a second order reaffirming its earlier ruling regarding the subpoena issued to the wife’s father. The husband has appealed. Following a thorough review of the record, we determine that the order from which the husband appeals does not resolve all issues raised in the proceedings below. As such, the order is not a final order, and this appeal is dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 09/26/14
Elizabeth Ann Morrow Granoff v. Andrew Scott Granoff
E2013-02598-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Richard R. Vance

This action arose over the proposed post-divorce sale of improved real property in which both parties held an ownership interest pursuant to the terms of their marital dissolution agreement, entered by the trial court with the parties’ divorce judgment in May 2006. The real property at issue consisted of a luxury estate situated on approximately twenty-six acres of lakeside property in White Pine, Tennessee. Following the parties’ filing of competing motions for contempt, respectively alleging each party’s lack of cooperation in efforts to sell the marital residence, the parties announced an agreement in December 2008 that the wife would “assume the right to list, market, show and sell” the marital residence while the husband was allowed to continue living there. This agreement was ultimately memorialized by the trial court in an order entered September 6, 2011. Upon negotiating an offer to purchase the marital residence for $925,000.00 in August 2013, the wife filed a motion to approve the sale at that price. Following a bench hearing, at which the husband opposed the sale and questioned Wife’s authority to enter into the purchase and sale contract, the trial court granted the wife’s motion and approved the sale of the marital residence for the amount of $925,000.00. The court also granted Wife authority to convey the real property upon her signature alone, ruling that Wife had acted in accordance with the authority awarded her in the previous order. The husband appeals. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Jefferson County Court of Appeals 09/26/14
Roadway Express, Inc. v. Sammy T. Robertson
E2013-02797-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Michael Sharp

This appeal arises from an award granted as part of a workers’ compensation claim. Roadway Express, Inc. (“Roadway”) sued Sammy T. Robertson (“Robertson”) in the Circuit Court for Bradley County (“the Trial Court”). The Trial Court previously had ordered Roadway to pay for certain medical treatment for Robertson. Roadway made the payments and appealed the Trial Court’s decision. The Tennessee Supreme Court Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel vacated the Trial Court’s order granting this award, and Roadway then sought reimbursement from Robertson. Robertson filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that this action was governed by workers’ compensation laws and there was no mechanism for reimbursement available to Roadway. The Trial Court dismissed the suit. Roadway appeals. Without reaching any conclusions about any other possible redress Robertson may have under Tennessee’s workers’ compensation laws, we hold that the Trial Court had subject matter jurisdiction in Roadway’s suit seeking reimbursement and, therefore, erred in granting Robertson’s motion to dismiss. We reverse the Trial Court.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 09/26/14
Greg Phillips v. Southern Heritage Bank
E2014-00222-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry Puckett

This appeal concerns Plaintiff’s complaint against Southern Heritage Bank to recover funds depleted from his account while he was incarcerated. Southern Heritage Bank filed a motion for summary judgment, alleging that the checks used to deplete the account were signed by Plaintiff’s mother, an authorized user, and that even if the checks were signed fraudulently, Plaintiff failed to timely review his bank statements. The trial court granted the motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff appeals. We affirm the decision of the trial court.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 09/25/14
Melissa Ann Henderson v. Richard Barry Henderson
M2013-01879-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Curtis Smith

Husband and Wife were divorced after being married for over twenty years. The trial court awarded Wife alimony in futuro and divided the marital assets and debts. Husband appealed, contending the trial court erred in the amount and type of alimony it awarded Wife. Husband also asserted the trial court erred in its classification, valuation, and allocation of several items of marital property. We find the trial court erred only in its allocation of $3,900 worth of assets to Husband that the record reveals he does not own. Other than that slight modification to the trial court’s allocation of assets, we affirm the trial court’s judgment in all other respects. Wife is awarded one-half of the attorney fees she incurred on appeal.

Marion County Court of Appeals 09/23/14
Dennis David Schuelke v. Brad Gudgeon, et al.
M2013-01887-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge C. L. Rogers

After transferring money to one of the Defendants, Plaintiff filed a complaint to recover the funds. Plaintiff asserts the money was a loan or, in the alternative, that the recipient of the funds solicited the monies without being properly licensed as a securities broker. Following a bench trial, the trial court dismissed Plaintiff’s claims, finding that the Plaintiff had requested that the funds be invested on his behalf and that the funds were lost in the options market. Plaintiff appeals, asserting the trial court committed numerous errors. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Sumner County Court of Appeals 09/23/14
Federal National Mortgage Association et al. v. Lakisha Simmons, et al.
M2013-00945-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Brothers

A husband and wife signed a promissory note, which was secured by a deed of trust, to finance the purchase of a home. Following a default and foreclosure sale, the new owner filed a detainer action in an effort to evict the couple from the property. The wife filed a counterclaim and third-party complaint, which the husband subsequently joined, seeking to invalidate the sale and remain in possession of the home. Among other reasons, the trial court dismissed the counterclaim/third-party complaint on res judicata grounds because the couple had previously filed similar lawsuits that were dismissed with prejudice. The husband appeals. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/23/14
Donna L. Singer v. Highway 46 Properties, LLC v. Dickson Title, LLC, et al.
M2013-02682-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor George C. Sexton

Suit brought by judgment creditor to enforce judgment lien evolved into third-party complaint, whereby the party who had purchased real property from the judgment debtor sued the company that performed a pre-closing title search and the company which issued an owner’s title insurance policy for indemnification of any amounts it might be required to pay.  Both companies moved to dismiss the third-party for failure to state a claim for relief; the trial court granted both motions. The property owner appeals; finding no error, we affirm the judgment.

Dickson County Court of Appeals 09/23/14
Rebecca Lynn Willenberg v. Mark Edward Willenberg
M2013-02627-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Robbie T. Beal

In this divorce action, Husband appeals the trial court’s ruling that Wife was incapable of rehabilitation and the award of alimony in futuro. Wife also appeals contending that the award of alimony in futuro was too low; that the court failed to award her attorney fees; and that the court refused to designate her as the custodian for their son’s college account. We reverse the court’s ruling that Wife is incapable of rehabilitation and its award of alimony in futuro, and remand for further proceedings; in all other respects, we affirm the judgment.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 09/23/14
Bobby Murray, et al. v. Dennis Miracle, et al.
E2013-00498-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Frank V. Williams, III

Bobby Murray and Loretta Murray (“Plaintiffs”) sued Dennis Miracle and Robert Daniel Smith (“Defendants”) with regard to a dispute involving real property located in Roane County, Tennessee. After a trial, the Chancery Court for Roane County (“Trial Court”) entered its judgment on February 11, 2013, finding, inter alia, that Defendants did not dispute that Plaintiffs had a right to improve the roadway at issue, but that the parties disagreed regarding the nature of the road work to be performed. In its judgment, the Trial Court, inter alia, appointed a Special Commissioner to supervise the proposed road work and detailed how the work should be implemented. Plaintiffs appeal the Trial Court’s judgment. We find and hold that Plaintiffs have significantly failed to comply with Tenn. R. App. P. 27 rendering this Court unable to address any of Plaintiffs’ potential issues. We, therefore, affirm the Trial Court’s judgment, find Plaintiffs’ appeal frivolous, and award Defendants damages for frivolous appeal. Defendants raise an issue on appeal regarding whether the Trial Court erred in reversing its order regarding discovery sanctions. We find and hold that the Trial Court erred in interpreting our previous Opinion to require reversal of the sanctions. We, therefore, vacate the Trial Court’s September 25, 2012 order, reinstate the Trial Court’s September 22, 2010 order awarding Defendants attorney’s fees against 1 Plaintiffs as discovery sanctions, and remand to the Trial Court to address Plaintiffs’ motion for reconsideration of these sanctions.

Roane County Court of Appeals 09/23/14
Kevin Mamon v. Geico Insurance, et al.
M2013-02114-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Hamilton Gayden

Inmate filed suit pro se against Geico Indemnity Company, Master Muffler, and Sam Owens for breach of contract, negligence, fraud, and conversion related to the repairs of his automobile. The suit was initially dismissed for Plaintiff’s failure to comply with T. C. A. §§ 41-21-805 and 41-21-807. Plaintiff filed a motion for relief, which the court granted. At the same time, Plaintiff moved to amend his complaint; he attached the amended complaint to the motion. Thereafter, one defendant filed a motion to dismiss for failure to prosecute, which the court granted. We reverse the judgment and remand for further proceedings.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/22/14
Jimmie Bradford, et al. v. State of Tennessee
W2014-01188-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Commissioner Nancy C. Miller-Herron

Because the Notice of Appeal was not timely filed, we have no jurisdiction to consider this appeal. Consequently, this appeal is dismissed.

Court of Appeals 09/22/14
In Re: Shameel S., et al
E2014-00294-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Brandon Fisher

Valerie S. (“Mother”) appeals the termination of her parental rights to her minor children Shameel S., born November 1996, and LaRiea S., born May 1998, (“the Children”). Acting upon a petition to terminate parental rights filed by the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”), the Juvenile Court for Anderson County (“the Juvenile Court”) terminated Mother’s parental rights to the Children on the ground of severe abuse pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(4) and Tenn. Code Ann. § 37-1-102. Mother argues on appeal that DCS did not exercise reasonable efforts to reunify Mother and the Children in the period before a finding of severe abuse. We find and hold that clear and convincing evidence was shown that the ground existed to terminate Mother’s parental rights to the Children for severe child abuse, that clear and convincing evidence was shown that termination was in the Children’s best interest, and that DCS exercised reasonable efforts. We affirm the Juvenile Court.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 09/19/14
Gary Atchley v. Tennessee Credit, LLC
M2013-00234-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Larry B. Stanley, Jr.

This appeal arises from the chancery court’s decision to rescind a transaction for the sale of property. Purchaser gave Seller a check for $18,000 to buy a piece of property. Purchaser later sent a letter to the Seller attempting to rescind the transaction when he discovered Seller did not have title to the property it attempted to sell. Thereafter, Seller came into possession of the deed to the property and attempted to convey it to Purchaser. Purchaser filed suit in chancery court to rescind the transaction. The trial court held the transaction should be rescinded and the purchase price returned to the Purchaser because the Seller did not own the property at the time of the transaction. Seller appeals, asserting that Purchaser should be compelled to accept the after-acquired-title to the property or, alternatively, that it was entitled to specific performance. We have reviewed the record and the relevant legal principles and have determined that the trial court did not err in rescinding the transaction. The trial court’s judgment is affirmed.

Warren County Court of Appeals 09/16/14
William Gregory Hall, Jr. v. Hillary Hudgens Hall
E2013-02227-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge William K. Swann

This is an appeal of the trial court’s grant of a one-year extension of an order of protection. The petitioner/father had initially obtained an ex parte order of protection against the respondent/mother in August 2005. Subsequent to the expiration of that ex parte order, the parties were divorced in January 2007, with the trial court incorporating into the final decree of divorce an agreed permanent parenting plan awarding the parents equal co-parenting time with their two minor children. Five years later under the docket number of the previous order of protection, the father initiated the instant action by filing an ex parte petition for a new order of protection against the mother. The trial court granted an ex parte order and subsequently entered a one-year order of protection to which the parties agreed on August 30, 2012. This order of protection, inter alia, allowed the mother three telephone calls per week with the children but no in-person contact. On October 1, 2012, the father filed a petition to modify the permanent parenting plan, utilizing the docket number of the original divorce action. In July 2013, the father filed, again within the divorce action, a motion to consolidate the order of protection and permanent parenting plan proceedings, requesting that the order of protection be extended indefinitely. Following a bench hearing, the trial court granted a one-year extension of the order of protection. The mother appeals. Because we determine that the preponderance of the evidence does not support a finding that the father proved the allegation of domestic abuse at the time the extension was granted, we vacate the trial court’s extension of the order.

Knox County Court of Appeals 09/15/14