When two people decide to raise a child together, the sudden end of their relationship can create numerous complications for their parenting relationships. Child custody can quickly become one of the most heated and contentious aspects of any divorce in Tennessee.
Tennessee makes the best interests of the child the paramount consideration in any child custody determination, and courts will try to order arrangements that allow for both parents to “enjoy the maximum participation possible in the life of the child.” Over time, certain circumstances can change, and a child custody agreement may need to be modified.
If you need assistance establishing or modifying a child custody order in Tennessee, be sure to hire a family lawyer who will protect your best interests and will look out for the best interests of your family. Shannon A. Jones, Attorney at Law, represents clients throughout the greater Memphis area. Call (901) 390-9041 or contact us online to receive a free consultation.
Tennessee Child Custody Rights
Tennessee Code § 36-6-101(a)(3) establishes that a court must grant specific rights to each parent about the custody or possession of a child in an action for divorce or annulment. The statute provides that other child custody or possession orders could also include these rights.
The rights listed explicitly in Tennessee Code § 36-6-101(a)(3)(A)(i)-(vi) are as follows:
Unrestricted telephone conversations with the child no less than twice a week.
Exchange mail with the child without the other parent destroying, defacing, opening, or censoring the mail.
Receive notice as soon as practicable but within 24 hours of any hospitalization, a major illness, injury, or death of the child.
Receive directly from the school any educational records made available to parents.
Receive copies of medical, health, or other treatment records directly from treating physician or healthcare provider (unless otherwise provided by law).
Freedom from “unwarranted derogatory remarks” about the parent or their family by the other parent to or in the presence of the child.
Minimum 48 hours’ notice (when possible) of all extracurricular activities involving opportunities for parental participation or observation.
Receipt of itinerary including planned dates of departure and return, intended destinations, mode of travel, and telephone numbers when other parent leaves the state with the child for more than 48 hours.
Access and participation in the child’s education on the same bases that are provided to all parents, when access is legal and reasonable and does not interfere with the school’s day-to-day operations or child’s educational schedule.
All of these rights are individually listed on the Permanent Parenting Plan Form used by Tennessee courts. It is also important to note that Tennessee Code § 36-6-108 is considered the state’s parental relocation statute, and it provides that a parent who is spending intervals of time with a child and desires to relocate more than 50 miles from the other parent must send a notice to the other parent no later than 60 days prior to the move.
The notice must contain a statement of intent to move, the location of the new residence, reasons for the relocation, and a statement that the other parent can file a petition to oppose the move within 30 days of receiving the notice.
Tennessee Child Custody Factors
Under Tennessee Code § 36-6-106, the best interests of the child must be the basis for any determination made by a court in annulment, divorce, separate maintenance, or another proceeding. A court can consider all relevant factors, and specific factors listed under this statute include:
The stability of the child’s relationship with each parent, including whether one parent has handled the majority of parenting responsibilities.
Each parent’s or caregiver’s past and potential future adherence to commonly-recognized parenting responsibilities. This includes the willingness to continue to foster a close parent-child relationship between both parents and the child.
The court can consider any refusal to attend a court-ordered parent education seminar to be a lack of good faith effort.
Ability to provide the child with medical care, food, education, clothing, and other necessary care.
Whether one parent has taken greater responsibility performing parental responsibilities.
Emotional ties between the parents and child and the emotional needs of the child.
Each parent’s physical, mental, moral, and emotional fitness to parent the child.
The child’s relationship with siblings, other relatives, step-relatives, and mentors, as well as the child’s involvement with physical surroundings, school, or other significant activities.
Continuity in the child’s life and the length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment.
Evidence of physical or emotional abuse to the child, the other parent, or any other person.
The character and behavior of any other individuals who reside in the home or frequently visit the home.
Preference of a child 12 years of age or older, upon request of the child (with the preferences of older children given greater weight than younger children).
Each parent’s employment schedule.
All other factors deemed relevant by the court.
Child custody is typically finalized in a divorce decree in Tennessee, and modifying a child custody agreement will require some material change in circumstances. The modification must still be in the best interest of the child.
As previously mentioned, relocation by one parent is a common reason for modification of a child custody agreement, but other reasons could include an increase or decrease in a parent’s income, serious health problems for one parent, or acts of domestic violence. In some cases, a child may wish to express a preference after turning 12 years of age.
Frequently Asked Questions About Child Custody in Tennessee
What Is the Difference Between the Primary Residential Parent (PRP) and Alternate Residential Parent (ARP)?
The PRP is what is commonly referred to as the custodial parent while the ARP is what would be known as the noncustodial parent. The PRP and ARP are usually designated consistent with any Permanent Parenting Plan. Full custody or sole custody is often used to describe a situation in which the PRP has power over all parenting decisions while joint custody indicates both parents share equal custody and decision rights.
Does Child Custody in Tennessee Have Any Effect on Child Support Payments?
Yes. Child support will be calculated based on the Tennessee Child Support Guidelines that require the number of days minor children spend with each parent to be included in the child support calculator. Whether an arrangement is “standard visitation” (usually 285 days for the PRP and 80 days for the ARP) or “shared parenting” (182.5 days for each parent), the amount of child support owed will be reduced as the amount of time with the child is increased.
What Is “Supervised” Visitation or Parenting Time?
The court may appoint a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) or another party to provide supervision of visits with children in some cases, such as when a parent has a history of domestic violence, alcohol abuse, or drug usage. The GAL has a responsibility to represent the best interests of the child, which may conflict with the desires of the parents. These cases may lead to trial, and parents should make sure they have legal representation when a GAL will be involved in a child custody matter.
Contact a Tennessee Child Custody Attorney Today
Are you trying to establish or modify a child custody agreement in Memphis? Shannon A. Jones, Attorney at Law, will be there to make sure that your voice is heard and that you get to spend time with your child.
Our firm has been helping clients all over Tennessee since 1997. We are ready to put our extensive experience handling child custody cases to work for you when you call (901) 390-9041 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.