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Tyler Perry and Kaitlyn Jenkins welcomed their son, Carson Perry, into the world in 2015. Although they were not married, the couple lived together and raised Carson together until their split in March of 2017. After this, Carson lived primarily with Kaitlyn, but, according to Kaitlyn, Tyler continued to see Carson "all the time." For a while, the young parents worked well together in co-parenting Carson.
Unfortunately, this relationship deteriorated when Tyler started dating Rachel in September of 2017. When Kaitlyn found out about Rachel, she began to severely curtail Tyler's access to his son. After months of pleading for more parenting time, Tyler decided to file an action in February of 2018 to fight for his legal rights.
Tyler requested primary physical custody over Carson or, in the alternative, shared physical custody with Kaitlyn. The trial was held on October 29, 2018. Both parents testified that the other parent was a fit and proper parent. The undisputed evidence showed that Kaitlyn had committed two acts of family violence against Tyler while they were together. Further, at the time of trial, Kaitlyn was living in a three-bedroom house with her divorced parents, her grandmother, her boyfriend, and Carson's younger half-sibling. Kaitlyn was unemployed, and her only sources of support were her boyfriend, her divorced parents, child support from Tyler, and public assistance. Carson was forced to share a room with his great-grandmother.
Meanwhile, the undisputed evidence also showed that Tyler was gainfully employed, had married Rachel in September of 2018, and was leasing a two-bedroom house in a nearby town approximately 40 minutes away. Carson had his own bedroom at Tyler's home. There was no evidence that Carson had ever been abused or neglected while in Tyler's care.
After the trial concluded, the trial court immediately awarded primary physical custody to Kaitlyn, while awarding only daytime visits to Tyler. "I award primary physical custodian to the –- custody of the child to the mother. I sincerely believe a small child that’s been with the mother needs to stay with the mother." Tyler was not permitted to have overnight visitations with Carson until Carson reached the age of five.
Tyler was devastated, but his nightmare was far from over. The trial court later awarded attorney fees against Tyler, apparently accepting the argument from Kaitlyn's attorney that Tyler put Kaitlyn to unnecessary trouble and expense by asking the trial court to do its legal duty and give joint physical custody due consideration.
Tyler appealed this result, contending that the trial court violated Georgia law by finding him to be a fit and proper parent, yet failing to give his request for joint physical custody the due consideration that Georgia law requires under these circumstances. Tyler also appealed the trial court's refusal to allow him overnight visitations with Carson, contending that there was no evidence to support this limitation.
Finally, Tyler contended that the trial court violated Georgia's statutory law, which forbids trial courts from favoring custody in the father or the mother, as well as Georgia's express state policy concerning the sharing of parental rights and responsibilities following parents' separation. Tyler argued that his fundamental, constitutionally protected parental rights were violated under both the Georgia and United States Constitutions.
The entire record and Tyler's briefs to the Court of Appeals of Georgia for his first appeal are provided below.
On October 29, 2019, Tyler learned that the Court of Appeals agreed! The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the case back to the trial court, finding that the trial court failed to give due consideration for Tyler's request for joint physical custody. Because this failure required reversal, the Court of Appeals did not need to reach Tyler's other arguments.
The case was remanded to the trial court on November 21, 2019, this time with instructions to give "due consideration" to joint physical custody. The case sat unattended until May of 2020, at which point Tyler requested a hearing to provide the trial court with whatever it may need to enter a new final order in compliance with the Court of Appeals' direction. That hearing took place on June 17, 2020 via Zoom, and can be found here. This hearing lasted two minutes and 43 seconds.
On June 19, 2020, Tyler filed a motion asking the trial court to issue its ruling promptly as required by law. Kaitlyn filed a response to this motion, and Tyler filed a reply to her response. Despite Tyler's request for a prompt ruling, the trial court did not issue its ruling until over six months later on December 30, 2020, which was also the day before the trial judge retired.
That new order added approximately 80 words of explanation of the trial court's original ruling, which was about one word for every five days between the date that the trial court received its instructions from the Court of Appeals and the date that it filed the new order. Tyler produced a "track changes" comparison between the old order and the new order, which is available below.
Tyler once again appeals, contending that the trial court did not give "due consideration" to joint physical custody despite the Court of Appeals' clear instructions and despite having well over a year to do so. Tyler also repeats his constitutional arguments, which were not addressed by the Court of Appeals in the first appeal.
The entire record and Tyler's briefs to the Court of Appeals of Georgia for his second appeal are provided below.
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