Child Custody

It is not always the divorce or court process that makes the proceedings complicated but the fight for child custody. In Tennessee, child custody laws make sure that custody is determined in the child or children’s best interests. In making a custody determination, there are certain factors that are taken into consideration by the court. Some of these are:

  • The relationship of child or children with their parents or with the person appointed to take care of them and the existing bond and affection between the children and parents.
  • The reasonable preference of a child over the age of twelve (12) may be considered by the court.
  • The means and ability of each parent to provide the children with the basic necessities such as education, clothing, food, shelter, medical care and safety.
  • Any past history of violence, physical or emotional abuse or neglect.
  • The ability of the parents to encourage and nuture the relationship between the children and the other parent.

These are some basic factors that the Court will consider, but the law allows the judge to consider many other factors and issues that may be important in each case. Some exceptional considerations may be the mental or physical illness of a parent, or criminal history of a parent.

The court prefers that the parents reach an agreement out of court or through mediation to avoid the need for a contested trial which may be even more damaging to the children. The court will ask each parent to submit their proposed Permanent Parenting Plan during the proceedings. If the parties cannot agree, they must attend mediation. The parents, along with their respective attorneys, will work with a listed professional mediator to attempt to reach an agreement for the care, custody, and support of their children.

If mediation does not help the parents reach an agreement, the case will go to court for a trial before a judge. The judge must consider all of the factors outlined in the law and make a decision regarding custody and parenting time which is in the best interests of the children. The court must attempt to maximize each parent’s participation with the child or children. In most cases, the court will create some type of joint custody arrangement where each parent has certain specific time with the children. In rare cases, the court may award sole custody to one parent if the other parent is determined to be unable to care for the child or children or is unable to make vital decisions for the child.

There are also specific laws regarding the relocation of parents who want to move with the children outside of the state or more than one hundred (100) miles from their home. The primary residential parent who wants to relocate with the children must give the other parent written notice in advance of the proposed move, and the other parent will be given an opportunity to object to the move by making a request with the court.