Determining Child Custody In Tennessee

Since 2001, parents in Tennessee who are either divorcing or were never married and have split up have to establish a permanent parenting plan to establish custody, parenting time and child support. Parents in Tennessee should be aware of the standard that the court uses when deciding whether to approve parenting plans and the factors the court uses to analyze custody arrangements.

Best Interests Of The Child

A parenting plan establishes a residential schedule for the child and dictates parenting responsibilities for each parent. The residential schedule should designate which parent is the primary residential parent, meaning that the child lives with that parent more than 50 percent of the time.

The primary residential parent does not have the same implications as primary custodial parent used to under old law. A custodial parent used to have the majority of decision-making authority regarding the child's upbringing. Under a parenting plan, the law separates decision-making from the child's living arrangements. Parents outline how they will make decisions about various areas of the child's life, such as education and religion, in the parenting plan.

The residential schedule should also delineate when the child spends time with the non-residential parent. All the elements of the parenting plan should be arranged with the child's best interests in mind.

Factors The Court Considers

The court will use a variety of factors when assessing whether a parenting plan and residential schedule is in a child's best interests, including:

  • The overall love and affection between the child and each parent
  • The parents' mental and physical health
  • The child's preference, if the child is old enough to express one - usually age 12 or older
  • Each parent's ability to provide for the child's basic needs such as food, shelter, clothing, medical care and education
  • The child's ties to the community and school
  • Each parent's willingness to foster a relationship between the child and the other parent
  • Each parent's work schedule Any other factors the court deems relevant

Consult An Attorney

Child custody matters can be emotionally-charged matters. The assistance of a veteran child custody attorney can be invaluable to parents who are going through custody battles.