How is Custody Decided in TN?
When you are getting a divorce as a parent, it is important that you know the law and are represented by an attorney.
For parents who are unmarried, separated from their child’s other parent, or are seeking a divorce from their spouse, the most heart-wrenching issue is usually the child custody issue. Child custody disputes in Tennessee can be long, drawn-out, emotional battles that leave everyone involved feeling emotionally scarred. I am Judy Oxford, Attorney at Law, and I can help you navigate your child custody dispute, try to understand the law and protect your children’s best interest. Here is what you should know about how custody is decided in Tennessee:
Parenting Plans in Tennessee
When a child’s parents decide not to live together for whatever reason, the parents of that child are encouraged to enter into a parenting plan. As explained by Tennessee courts, a parenting plan seeks to move away from traditional ideas of “custody” and “visitation” by instead emphasizing the idea of parenting responsibilities and parenting schedules. Through a parenting plan, parents will reach an agreement revolving around the needs of the child and how each parent will fulfill that child’s needs.
Parents are encouraged to work together to form the parenting plan between themselves or to attend mediation to work out an agreement for the parenting plan. The parenting plan will need to be approved by the court making it a court order so that it will be enforceable. If the parents cannot reach an agreement, even with the aid of a mediator, they can have a hearing before the judge who will then decide what the parenting plan will be.
How the Court Makes a Determination About Child Custody
The court is obligated to make child custody decisions based on the best interest of the child. The best interest of the child is determined by a judge after careful consideration of the 15 factors found in Tennessee Code Section 36-6-106, which include the following:
- The amount of love, affection, and emotional ties that exist between the child and each parent;
- The disposition of each parent to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, education, and other necessary care;
- Any evidence of physical or emotional abuse to the child, to the other parent, or to any other person;
- The importance of continuity in the child’s life and the length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment;
- The child’s interaction and interrelationships with siblings, other relatives and step-relatives, and mentors, as well as the child’s involvement with the child’s physical surroundings, school, or other significant activities;
- The moral, physical, mental and emotional fitness of each parent as it relates to their ability to parent the child;
- The reasonable preference of the child (if the child is at least 12 years of age), but the court may hear from younger children upon request;
- Each parent’s past performance of parental responsibilities, including the willingness and ability of the parent to facilitate and encourage a close relationship between the child and both parents, consistent with the best interest of the child. The court must consider any history of a parent in denying parenting time in violation of a court order; and
- Any other factors the court finds relevant.
If your case goes to trial, you will need to prove that your proposed parenting schedule and allocation of decision-making will be in your child’s best interest. In order to prove this, you may need to call on expert witnesses, such as a child psychologist or counselor; other witnesses in the community, such as your child’s teachers or coach, your friends and family members, neighbors, etc.; and produce evidence that you have the means, stability, and lifestyle to provide care for the child. All of this is part of the litigation process that I as your attorney would guide you on.
Call My Child Custody Law Office in Franklin, TN
If you are separating from your child’s other parent, child custody may be at the top of your mind. If you are intending to move forward to get your child custody issue resolved, and want to improve the outcome of your child custody case, Judy Oxford, Attorney at Law, can help. Call me today at 615-791-8511 or fill out the online form on my website to schedule a consultation.