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Child Custody Modifications in Tennessee

Franklin domestic relations lawyer fights for changes in the best interest of the children

Right after you decided to separate from your spouse, you likely had an immediate conversation about where the kids would live and how they would split their time between the two of you. Perhaps the most contentious part of your divorce, like for many other people, was coming to an agreement on these issues, as well as who would be able to make major decisions about your children’s education, medical care, and other important things. You may have fought hard for the permanent parenting plan that you have, but it may not have been what you truly wanted. Now, you are thinking of asking the court to modify that parenting plan so it is more in line with what you believe is in the best interests of your children. Getting a modification to your permanent parenting plan will not be easy.

What criteria are used to decide custody modifications?

Tennessee has a deceptively simple standard for determining whether modifications need to be made to a permanent parenting plan: Has there been a material change in circumstances? If so, do the best interests of the child warrant a change in the parenting plan?

The standard of proof is higher if a parent is seeking to change the primary residential parent, as compared to a parent simply seeking to make a change to the days in the parenting plan. When seeking to change the primary residential parent, one is not required to show a substantial risk of harm to the child. However, the changes have to be material. It can be, for example, failures of the parent to adhere to the current parenting plan. The change in circumstances have to be such that the parenting plan is no longer in the best interest of the child.

If a parent is simply seeking to modify the residential schedule, the material changes may include significant changes in the needs of the child because the child has gotten older; significant changes in the parent’s living or working condition that significantly affect parenting; failure to adhere to the parenting plan; or other circumstances that would warrant making a change in the residential parenting time that is in the best interests of the child.

Whether it is the first time the court is considering the parenting plan, or it is the fourth time, the judge will always focus on what is in the best interests of the child. While that may sound simple enough, it is a highly subjective measure. You may think that dad moving in with a new girlfriend after only a month of dating is bad for the kids, but a judge may look at all the circumstances and decide that limiting time with dad would ultimately be more harmful for the kids than the new living situation.

There are many more examples that I could cite from my experience. So it is important for parents thinking of trying to change their parenting plans to talk with an experienced lawyer to try to understand how the court would see their case and then determine if they need bolster their claims or modify their requests. For example, you may need to see a family therapist to get testimony about how a new living arrangement is harming the children or causing behavioral issues. It is important to consider all the options and determine how to make the strongest argument.

Modifying child support along with other changes to the parenting plan

If you are seeking to change your parenting plan, chances are good that you are trying to get more time with your children or are trying to become the primary residential parent. When those types of changes are made to the parenting plan, then child support also needs to be reviewed and recalculated. However, you do not want to seek these kinds of changes to the parenting plan just to try to get your child support lowered. Being motivated by money can hurt your request for a change in parenting time or a change in custody.

For more than 22 years, I have helped clients with child custody matters, always seeking to protect the child’s best interests. I try to explore every legal option for helping my clients get modifications to their parenting plans that are in the best interests of their children, including working with experts when feasible. I help clients put together compelling evidence to make their strongest case, helping to increase their chances of getting the parenting plans they want. Call me, Judy A. Oxford, today at (615) 791-8511 or use the secure online form to schedule a free consultation. I’ll help you understand your rights and the best legal options to pursue.

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Contact my office directly to schedule an initial consultation at 615-791-8511 in the Brentwood area. I also respond to e-mails that briefly describe your situation and concerns.

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