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Child Custody & Visitation

Under Tennessee law, the courts must look to the best interest of the minor child when making decisions regarding child custody and visitation, known as parenting time. Tennessee courts designate a Primary Residential Parent, known as the custodial parent, and an Alternate Residential Parent. Parenting responsibilities are divided between the parties. Whichever party the child resides at the moment usually can make typical day-to-day decisions for the child. Custody of the minor child allocates major decision making in the following areas: education, healthcare, extra-curricular activities and religion. This is presumed joint decision-making absent an agreement or ruling otherwise for good cause. If an agreement is reached among the parties, the court may approve the Parenting Plan if, among other factors, the plan is in the best interest of the minor child and all of the statutory requirements are met. It is important to have a lawyer who knows those laws.

When parents are unable to agree to the custody and visitation schedule of their minor child or children, Tennessee courts use a statutory and non-statutory fitness analysis to determine the outcome. Typically, parties must participate an alternative dispute resolution format such as mandatory mediation with a license Rule 31 mediator before a court action can be set for trial.

Under Tennessee law, any permanent parenting plan shall include a residential parenting schedule. The courts make residential provisions for each child, consistent with the child’s developmental level and the family’s social and economic circumstances, which encourage each parent to maintain a loving, stable, and nurturing relationship with the child. Absent a good reason, both parents are expected to facilitate and encourage the relationship with the other parent. Sadly, some parents have issues such as drug usage, excessive alcohol usage, violence, or a criminal history which would limit his/her time with the child.

In Tennessee, the courts consider the following statutory factors when designing a Permanent Parenting Plan (T.C.A. §36-6-404):

  1. Best interest of the minor child is the key consideration.
  2. Parent’s ability to provide food, clothing, medical care and education for the child.
  3. Child’s relationship with each parent.
  4. Willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage relationship between child and other parent.
  5. Refusal to attend parent education seminar. Yes, there is a mandatory four-hour class which each parent must complete.
  6. History as a primary care giver to child.
  7. Love, affection, and emotional ties between parent and child.
  8. Emotional needs and developmental level of child.
  9. Character and physical and emotional fitness of parent.
  10. Child’s interaction and interrelationship with siblings and significant adults as well as surrounding school and activities.
  11. Continuity in the child’s life.
  12. Evidence of physical or emotional abuse of the child, the other parent, or any other person.
  13. Character and behavior of others who reside in or frequent parent’s home.
  14. Reasonable preference of the child if twelve years or older. Note, this is just a factor, not a controlling determination.

How Do I Modify Child Custody?

Under Tennessee law, once there has been a formal Court Order regarding physical and legal custody of the minor child, you must prove that there has been a material and substantial change of circumstances to warrant modifying the Parenting Plan. The change must usually be attached to the child’s change in circumstance, not merely your own. The courts always look to the best interest of the minor child when making this determination. Contact one of our experienced divorce lawyers at (615) 859-1328 to help guide you through this process and gather the necessary evidence and documentation to prove your case.

Our lawyers are experienced and knowledgeable of the statutory factors and non-statutory factors regarding child custody in Tennessee. We work with you to achieve the results you desire and help you to understand how these factors affect your particular case in Davidson County, Sumner County, and Robertson County. Call one of our Goodlettsville Family Law attorneys today at (615) 859-1328.

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