Difference Between Legal Custody and Physical Child Placement in Tennessee

Franklin child custody attorney fights to obtain a favorable arrangement

When most people think about child custody, they think about the whole enchilada. In the minds of most, having custody means having the children living in the home and being able to make all the decisions for the children. However, that’s not the way the law works. The law recognizes many different types of custody, including both legal custody and physical custody. In all cases, the most important point the courts will consider when making a decision is what is in the best interests of the child.

I’m Judy A. Oxford, an experienced Franklin child custody attorney. I help my clients learn about the different types of child custody and how those definitions apply to their case. Then I help them develop a strategy to get the arrangement they want, keeping in mind that the courts will need proof that whatever they are pushing for is in the best interests of the children.

What are the different types of custody?

Most child custody cases don’t just settle on the question of where the child lives. There are several types of custody that may need to be decided in a particular case, including these:

  • Physical custody, which refers to where the child lives. In most cases, the child will be dividing their time living with each parent (but not equal time).
  • Legal custody, which determines who can make decisions on behalf of the child. This means major decisions, such as medical care, education, religious instruction, and extracurricular activities.
  • Sole custody, which awards legal custody to one parent, and gives the majority of the parenting time to that same parent. The other parent may or may not have parenting time or periods of visitation.
  • Joint custody, which can mean joint legal custody or joint physical custody, giving each parent a share of decision-making responsibility or an equal share (or nearly equal share) of physical time with the child.

Before you can build a case for custody, you need to decide what type of custody you want to pursue. You may want the other parent to have visitation, but you may want to have the majority of physical time with the child and you may want sole decision-making ability. Your goal will determine the right strategy. In Tennessee, the law says there is no preference or presumption for or against joint legal custody, joint physical custody, or sole custody (unless there are certain special circumstances), but the court has the widest discretion to order a custody arrangement that is in the best interest of the child.  On the other hand, the law also says that the court is to order a custody arrangement that permits both parents to enjoy the maximum participation possible in the life of the child consistent with the list of custody factors stated in the law, the location of the residences of the parents, the child’s need for stability, and all other relevant factors.

I work with clients to try to identify a winning strategy that will meet their goals and hopefully ensure that the best interests of the child are met.

Would legal and physical custody be divided?  How?

Parents don’t always share legal and physical custody jointly, or get all or nothing. Sometimes, one parent might get legal custody and have primary physical custody, while the other parent gets significant parenting time, or there may be some other split. Again, the judge will use the best interests of the child as the guide.

One parent may lose legal custody but still retain visitation rights either under supervision or under limited terms, if the parent has been abusive or other special circumstances apply. The state can also remove children from parents’ care and take over legal custody and award physical custody to a foster parent or relative.

Contact an experienced Tennessee child custody attorney for guidance you can trust

I help my clients think through what the best arrangement would be for their family and then help them try to put together a strong case to achieve their goals. I help my clients determine the best arguments and evidence to make their case. It’s important that you have a knowledgeable legal advocate on your side so that you understand how custody is determined and what will influence the courts.

Your children’s health and well-being is of the utmost importance. Call me, Judy A. Oxford, an experienced child custody attorney with an office in Franklin, to help you try to get the custody arrangement you believe is best for your children. Call my office at (615) 791-8511 or use the secure online form to schedule a free consultation.

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