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Posted by: Amelia Ferrell Knisely on Jan 4, 2016

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys 1:

Luke Austin Evans and Heather Graves Parker, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellant, Stephen Matthew Thompson.

Attorneys 2:

Laurie Young and Joe M. Brandon, Jr., Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellee, Carrie M. Thompson.1

Judge(s): CLEMENT

Father appeals the parenting schedule that substantially restricts his parenting time. Without making any findings of fact, the trial court restricted Father’s parenting time to 48 hours per month, with no overnight visitation, until the child is three years old. Father contends the severe restrictions on his parenting time are not supported by the evidence. He further contends the trial court erred by severely limiting his parenting time without making any finding that he was guilty of conduct that affected his ability to parent pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-6-406(d). In all actions tried upon the facts without a jury, the trial court is required, pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 52.01, to find the facts specially, state separately its conclusions of law, and enter judgment accordingly. The underlying rationale for this mandate is that it facilitates appellate review by affording a clear understanding of the basis of the trial court’s decision; in the absence of findings of fact and conclusions of law, this court is left to wonder on what basis the court reached its ultimate decision. In this case, the trial court did not identify the legal principles it applied or the factual basis for its decision; therefore, it failed to satisfy the Rule 52.01 mandate. Because the trial judge has retired and both parties wish to avoid the cost of a new trial, the parties have requested that we conduct a de novo review of the record, and we have determined that the transcript of the evidence is sufficient for this court to conduct a de novo review to determine where the preponderance of the evidence lies. See Gooding v. Gooding, __ S.W.3d __, No. M2014-01595-COA-R3-CV, 2015 WL 1947239, at *1 (Tenn. Ct. App. Apr. 29, 2015). We find Father’s inappropriate statements and conduct concerning the child’s genitals are directly adverse to the best interests of the child. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-6-406(d). We also find that the evidence preponderates in favor of a finding of neglect and substantial nonperformance of Father’s parenting responsibilities to such a degree as to be adverse to the best interest of the child. See id. Accordingly, we affirm the parenting plan that substantially restricts Father’s parenting time.