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 appeals 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 appeals the trial court's refusal to allow him overnight visitations with Carson, contending that there was no evidence to support this limitation.
Finally, Tyler contends 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 argues that his fundamental, constitutionally protected parental rights were violated under both the Georgia and United States Constitutions.
The entire record and Tyler's Brief to the Court of Appeals of Georgia are provided below. We will post updates on this very important case as soon as they become available.
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