Sunday, December 8, 2013

Turner v. Turner case brief

Turner v. Turner case brief summary
919 S.W.2d 340 (1995)

Defendant father appealed from the orders of the Circuit Court for Warren County (Tennessee), which denied his petition for a downward modification of his child support obligation and ordered that his visitation be summarily suspended if he did not make prompt and timely support payments. The trial court found that the father had not demonstrated a material change in circumstances since the original support order.

The father was self-employed and had a history of nonpayment of child support.


  • On appeal, the court found that under an amendment to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-5-101(a)(1) (amended 1994), the trial court should have used the "significant variance" test instead of the "material change in circumstance" test. 
  • The court found that where an existing support obligation varied by more than 15 percent from a prospective obligation, the guidelines permitted a refusal to decrease only if: 
  • (1) the father was willfully or voluntarily unemployed or under-employed, or 
  • (2) the variance resulted from a previous decision of a court to deviate from the guidelines and the circumstances for the deviation had not changed. 
  • The court found that the trial court in the earlier proceeding had not made findings to justify a deviation, so there was no basis for comparison, that the trial court here had not made findings to deviate, and that there was an insufficient record for the court to set support on appeal. 
  • The court also held that visitation was not a punitive tool and should not be denied unless there was a finding that the father was financially able to support his children but refused to do so.
The court vacated the trial court orders that had denied the father's petition for modification and that had denied visitation. The court remanded to the trial court.

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