Child custody is one of the most hotly contested issues that divorcing parents must contend with. In some cases, a child custody arrangement can be worked out between the parents without the court’s intervention. But sometimes, custody can turn into a huge fight.
You may have a lot of questions: How is custody determined in Tennessee? Are mothers granted more custody than fathers? What are my chances of getting full custody? What things from my past can keep me from seeing my kids?
These are all good and fair questions. This article will discuss Tennessee custody factors and what you should do. But the first step to take when you are having custody issues is to contact an experienced Tennessee divorce attorney for help and to get honest answers to your questions.
Tennessee Child Custody Laws
In the state of Tennessee, child custody laws can be found in Section 36-6-101, Section 36-6-102, and Section 36-6-502 of the state code. In addition to these guidelines, courts have established factors to consider when making decisions on specific cases.
A court’s sole objective is to do what’s in the best interests of the child. To achieve this, courts will look at the fitness of each parent to determine whether they are capable of having custody of their child.
Following are the Tennessee custody factors that courts will look at when determining what type of custody arrangement to approve:
- The child’s preferences (if the child is older)
- How much of the child’s life will be disrupted, such as school and family
- The child’s ability to adjust to changing circumstances
- Each parent’s capacity to provide for the child’s needs, such as shelter, food, and clothing
- Whether either parent will engage in parental alienation
- Either parent’s history of domestic violence, child abuse, or substance abuse
- Whether a parent can mentally and physically care for the child
- Any other issues that may affect what is best for the child
Tennessee doesn’t have a 50/50 shared custody presumption. This means that some critics believe the state tends to lean in favor of the mother when it comes to custody orders. But if both parents are equally competent and capable, courts should grant equal custody to both parents.
If you are having issues, you need to file a petition for child custody in Tennessee today.
Difference Between Legal Custody and Physical Custody
In Tennessee, there are two categories of custody. Legal custody is the right of a parent to be legally responsible for their child and their right to be involved in making important decisions for their child. Unless a parent’s rights have been terminated, both parents will usually be granted legal custody of their child.
This means that both parents are supposed to be involved in the important decisions that arise when raising a child.
For example, where the child goes to school should be discussed between both parents. Both parents should be involved in medical decisions regarding their child. However, parents do not necessarily have to agree on the day-to-day choices made when raising a child.
Physical custody is how much time each parent is physically in charge of a child. When parents can’t come to some agreement on their own, physical custody arrangements are often decided by the courts.
What Is Mediation in a Child Custody Matter?
In Tennessee, when two parents can’t come to an agreement about child custody, the court will have the parties first meet with a mediator.
The mediator is usually a lawyer experienced in Tennessee family law who acts as an objective third party. Both parents and their lawyers will meet with the mediator to discuss each side’s position.
In some cases, the mediator and courts will consider expert opinions from a forensic child custody evaluator. The evaluator will offer an opinion about what’s in the child’s best interests based on interviews with the parents and, sometimes, interviews with the children themselves.
What Is a Primary Residential Parent (PRP)?
In Tennessee, parents are encouraged to use parenting plans that designate a primary residential parent, or PRP. The title of PRP is given to the parent who has more physical custody of the children.
Most agreed-upon parenting plans or even court-ordered parenting plans allow each parent day-to-day decision-making authority while they have physical control of their child.
However, in most situations, the PRP will receive child support from the other parent, who is called the alternative residential parent.
Get Tennessee Child Custody Help Today
If you need representation in a Tennessee child custody matter, Kirk Catron, Attorney at Law, will be there for you. Don’t try representing yourself without a skilled divorce attorney on your side. We know what it takes to fight for our client’s rights to raise their children. We strive to provide honest, compassionate, and strong representation. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.