Failure to Promote Relationship With Other Parent Leads to Loss of Child Custody in Nashville: In re Zamorah B.

Knoxville Child Custody AttorneysFacts: Child was born to unmarried Mother and Father. Father filed a Petition to Establish Paternity in which he asserted that he had voluntarily supported Child and had emotionally bonded with her, but that Mother decided two months after Child’s birth to eliminate him from her life. Shortly thereafter, Mother filed a Petition to Establish Parentage.

A hearing occurred before the Juvenile Court Referee, after which Mother was designated the primary residential parent and visitation was ordered for Father. Mother requested a rehearing before the Juvenile Court Judge, alleging that “visitation was unfairly decided.” Before the rehearing could occur, the parties filed numerous motions, the substance of which indicates that Father was primarily attempting to exercise his visitation rights while Mother was trying to prevent Father from exercising any visitation with Child.

The final custody hearing took place before the Juvenile Court Judge over 10 separate days. The trial court filed a 40 page final custody order in which it designated Father as Child’s primary residential parent. Mother was awarded two hours of supervised visitation each week. The trial court stated it would consider modifying visitation if Mother complied with the rules of visitation, refrained from violating prior court orders about speaking negatively about Father in the presence of Child, and followed the recommendations of counselors. The trial court also recommended that Mother receive anger management and parent education training.

Mother appealed.

On Appeal: The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court.

Legal Standard. Mother first argued the trial court applied an incorrect legal standard. Specifically, Mother argued the trial court erred by treating the preceding as one for an initial child custody order instead of one seeking to modify an initial child custody order.

When a party seeks review by the juvenile court judge of a referee’s decision, the referee’s report and findings, including any order reflecting such findings, remain only a recommendation. Review of a referee’s decision in a juvenile case is accomplished through a de novo hearing before the judge. The de novo hearing is not a review of the record presented to the referee, but is a full evidentiary hearing akin to a new trial. In a de novo hearing, the juvenile court judge must decide the issues without regard to the actions of the referee.

Mother’s argument was rejected. The Court said the Referee’s Parentage Order remained a recommendation because Mother sought review by the Juvenile Court Judge. It never became an order of the court. The Juvenile Court properly ruled that the proceeding before it was one to establish an initial child custody order and that the proper legal standard was the child’s best interest.

Best Interest of Child. Mother then argued the trial court erred in naming Father the primary residential parent. In its best interest analysis, the trial court considered the relevant factors set out in Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-6-106(a). After reviewing the record — and citing several examples of deplorable conduct by Mother —the Court reasoned:

The trial court applied each of the statutory best interest factors and found that some did not indicate custody with one parent over the other was in the best interest of the child. The court found that other factors favored Father as the primary residential parent….

The decisive factor for the trial court, however, was “[e]ach parent’s or caregiver’s past and potential for future performance of parenting responsibilities, including the willingness and ability of each of the parents and caregivers to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and both of the child’s parents, consistent with the best interest of the child.” The court set out its reasoning as follows:

No proof has been presented that either parent lacks the ability to perform day-to-day parenting tasks. However, this factor goes overwhelmingly in favor of the father. After being before the court on numerous occasions, the mother has repeatedly refused to abide by the Court’s order regarding derogatory remarks about the father in the presence of the minor child, visitation, and medical issues. On April 2, 2010, the Court emphasized “to both parties the impact their inability to co-parent effectively has on [Child] and to a custody determination.” However, the mother has continuously allowed her feelings about the father to control her behavior despite numerous Court Orders. Furthermore, the Court previously ruled that the mother was in contempt for withholding visitation on at least one occasion, although there was testimony regarding more incidents. This has led to the parents’ inability to effectively co-parent for the benefit of the minor child. The mother has proved that she is completely unwilling to promote, encourage or facilitate a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and her father. The father has testified, however that he encourages a relationship between the mother and child by speaking to the child positively about the mother, soothing her when the child cries for the mother, buying the mother a mother’s day card, and offering and driving the minor child to Nashville, TN for Christmas day 2010 visitation with the mother and child. This is a deciding factor in this case, and the court finds that the father is definitely the more satisfactory parent as it pertains to this factor.

The willingness of a parent to facilitate and encourage a close relationship between the child and the other parent is an important factor for the courts to consider in custody cases. Indeed, our legislature has stated that “the relationship between the child and each parent should be fostered unless inconsistent with the child’s best interests.”

[Tennessee] case law is accordingly replete with examples where the greater willingness of one parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent has been the decisive factor in determining parenting arrangements….

The trial court found in this case that, “[t]he mother has proved that she is completely unwilling to promote, encourage or facilitate a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and her father.” We agree. The evidence also showed that Father was a loving, caring parent, and that he was willing to promote and encourage [Child's] relationship with Mother for the sake of the child.

Accordingly, the order of the trial court was affirmed.

In re Zamorah B. (Tennessee Court of Appeals, Middle Section, February 15, 2013).

Information provided by K.O. Herston: Knoxville, Tennessee Divorce, Matrimonial and Family Law Attorney.


A version of this column originally appeared in

How Foster Care DAMAGES Kids

They want YOUR CHILDREN too!

The link above will give you some very valuable incite. If anyone with even a fragment of empathy can imagine this too can happen to them, their children, their grandchildren, nieces or nephews; these are children. Little girls that grew up with the dreams of being a mommy someday, only to later have those children ripped away. The happy little faces, the sweet little voices, the pitter-patter of tiny feet, the children taken.

Please click the link above, and read a fraction of what is going on.

The Truth!

You are not immune! This COULD HAPPEN TO YOU TOO!
This is not just a “poor peoples” problem, this happens to the upper class, the middle class, FBI agents, Attorneys.. it can happen to you too!

You don’t have to be a drug addict, you don’t have to be an alcoholic, or a stressed out parent. You don’t have to be a bad parent. This isn’t happening to just the lower-class, or just the ethnic. Look at the case with Deanna Hardwick out of Orange County,  California. Or to really see the sickness of this, look at the Gaston case out of Oregon. Those are just two cases. I could list you plenty more.

schoolchildren[1]Christians are deemed “delusional” and “schizophrenic”, for believing in God.  If you have EVER seen a psychiatrist, you have “Mental Issues that prevent you from parenting your child”. If you are out of a job you are deemed to have “stressors” that prevent you from parenting your child, and you are deemed financially unable to parent your child (and if you haven’t lost your job yet, Social Services will have NO PROBLEM helping you there).  If you have ever gotten into an argument with a family member, Social Services will be happy to tell the court you have “anger management problems” which could be detrimental to the children.

Don’t think for one second, you are immune! The statistics are far to high.

If you have beautiful, sweet children,


Be careful, Be aware!

A version of this column originally appeared in


226256_302779083153446_1807722447_n[1]Therapy, Mentors, Advocates, and Foster Parents…Oh My!!!! This drove of people and their interventions are indeed necessary when children are in foster care, but recently, there have been instances in which the adolescents believe they are entitled to much more. Teenagers who have been bounced around from different foster and group homes are eventually acclimated to the regulations of the foster care system. Some teens know and understand licensing regulation better than their social workers. Such adaptation to their environment is necessary if they are to survive in the fostering sub-culture. In some cases, I adopted the concern that maybe the foster care system disables adolescents who are approaching their day of emancipation. Without the necessary skills to live independently, how will these young adults function?

Teens who experience a sense of entitlement paired with anger management issues, may not go very far in general society. These particular types of teens are unable to adjust to rejection or denial in any circumstance because there are such policies that handicap their ability to handle certain life experiences without having a tantrum or violent episode. In foster care, adolescents are sent to therapy to process their behavior and the possible consequences of continued behavior. In real life, these same teens are arrested and sent to jail for disrupting the peace. When interventions are set in place without real consequences, what are we teaching these teens? Aren’t we setting them up for failure if they don’t realize that their behavior is highly inappropriate? Shouldn’t all parties involved emphasize to adolescents that they are not entitled to a free pass once they age out of fostercare?

A version of this column originally appeared in


Nancy-SchaeferBY: Nancy Schaefer
Senator, 50th District

“I have come to the conclusion:

  • · that poor parents often times are targeted to lose their children because they do not have the where-with-all to hire lawyers and fight the system. Being poor does not mean you are not a good parent or that you do not love your child, or that your child should be removed and placed with strangers;
  • · that all parents are capable of making mistakes and that making a mistake does not mean your children are always to be removed from the home. Even if the home is not perfect, it is home; and that’s where a child is the safest and where he or she wants to be, with family;
  • · that parenting classes, anger management classes, counseling referrals, therapy classes and on and on are demanded of parents with no compassion by the system even while they are at work and while their children are separated from them. This can take months or even years and it emotionally devastates both children and parents. Parents are victimized by “the system” that makes a profit for holding children longer and “bonuses” for not returning children;
  • · that caseworkers and social workers are oftentimes guilty of fraud. They withhold evidence. They fabricate evidence and they seek to terminate parental rights. However, when charges are made against them, the charges are ignored;
  • · that the separation of families is growing as a business because local governments have grown accustomed to having taxpayer dollars to balance their ever-expanding budgets;
  • · that Child Protective Service and Juvenile Court can always hide behind a confidentiality clause in order to protect their decisions and keep the funds flowing.

There should be open records and “court watches”! Look who is being paid!”…

I would also like to add that so many people ask the question “Why is it that many children are NOT removed when they are in fact in danger, even where there have been several reports made?” I have posed this question to the County Board of Supervisor’s office, and was told that “if a child is difficult to place, or if a child is moved more than 3 or 4 times, Social Services gets docked funds and audited on that case” indicating that a combative or “difficult child” would potentially or probably moved several times per year, thus that child is not economically lucrative to the Department and employees.

(Foster Parents and Adoptive Parents are also employees in that they will continue to get paid a check each month they keep that child, until that child is either removed or 18, 21 or no longer in need of services beyond 18. The child is FULLY SUPPORTED by the government even after adoption has been granted.. it’s a guaranteed pay check for the child(ren))

A version of this column originally appeared in