TennesseeChild Custody Law
Tennessee Child Custody Guide :: Table of Contents
Child custody is defined as the guardianship over a child, which covers both physical custody and legal custody. In a child custody dispute the court may award joint custody to both parents or sole custody to a single parent.
Child custody cases in Tennessee can be either contested and resolved by court order, or noncontested and defined in a child custody agreement between the parents. A custody agreement or order will legally determine, at minimum, the following things:
- Where the child lives (physical custody)
- Who is involved in making parenting decisions (legal custody)
- How the visitation schedule with non-custodial parents or relatives is arranged
This page describes how a contested child custody case is handled in the Tennessee court system, and what factors are used to determine which parent gets custody.
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After a breakup or divorce in Tennessee, couples with children must come to a child custody agreement that describes which parent the children will live with, how visitation will be scheduled, and how the non-custodial parent will pay child support.
Some of the factors considered by Tennessee in child custody cases include the child's wishes, willingness of the parent to cooperate with their partner and any history of domestic violence. Tennessee considers joint custody orders to be in the best interests of the child where possible.
What is Considered in the Case of Custody?The referenced rights for custody are as follows:
- The right to phone conversations with the child at least twice a week at reasonable times and durations
- The right to send mail to the child that the other parent cannot open or impede in any way
- The right to receive relevant information as soon as practicable but within 24 hours of any event of hospitalization, major illness or death of the child
- The right to receive the child's school records, names of teachers, class schedules, standardized test scores, and any other records made available to parents
- the right to receive copies of the child's medical, health or other treatment records, unless otherwise argued by court
- The right to be free of unwarranted derogatory remarks from any party involved
The right to be given at least 48 hours notice, if possible, of all extra-curricular activities, with the opportunity to participate or observe, such as school, athletic, church, or other activities where a parent's participation is appropriate.
The right to receive from the other parent an itinerary including emergency contact information, if the other parent leaves the state with the child for more than two days.
The right of participation in education, including the right of access to the child for lunch and other activities, on the same basis that is provided to all parents.
The court will consider all factors relevant to the case, and the following if applicable:
- The emotional ties that exist between the parents and the child
- The disposition of the parents to provide the child with necessary care to provide for the child's overall welfare
- the degree of which parent has been the primary caregiver
- The importance of continuity in the child's life and the length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment
- The stability of the family unit
- The mental and physical health of the parents
- The home, school and community record of the child
- The reasonable preference of the child, if 12 years of age or older.
The party who is granted custody of the child will be allowed to enforce the provisions of the court's declarations concerning the support of the child.
If the parents are on amicable terms they may agree to custody terms in a parenting agreement between themselves, or via a mediator. If child custody is disputed, however, they will have to receive a child custody order from a Tennessee judge, who will attempt to make a custody decision that is in the "best interests of the child".
In the state of Tennessee, a number of factors are taken into account by the courts when determining who gets child custody. This section describes Tennessee's custody factors, considerations, and presumptions when evaluating a custody order.
Is there a set list of statutory factors for calculating child custody in the state of Tennessee?
Tennessee has a list of statutory factors that are considered by the court when determining a custody order. This list may include factors such as the child's age, the living situation of each parent, any history of abuse or neglect from either parent, etc. Although there is a statutory list of factors, consider other factors at its discretion depending on the particular circumstances of the case.
Do judges in the state of Tennessee favor joint custody?
Judges in Tennessee are authorized to order either joint or single-parent custody of a child subject to a custody dispute.
Courts in Tennessee are presumed to generally favor custody orders granting joint custody between both the parents where possible. However, the judge will evaluate each case individually when determing whether joint custody is in the best interests of the child.
Do Tennessee courts encourage parents to cooperate together to raise the child?
Tennessee courts favor awarding custody to a cooperative parent who is willing to work together with the other parent regarding child visitation, scheduling, child support, and other co-parenting matters. Tennessee law favors co-parenting as being in the best interests of the child, and the courts will favor a parent willing to cooperate over a parent who attempts to alienate their child from the other parent.
Are the child's wishes considered when determining custody in the state of Tennessee?
In Tennessee, the court does consider the child's reasonable wishes when determining which parent wins custody. The judge may take the child's age, maturity, and judgement into consideration when considering the child's custody preference.
Do Tennessee courts consider domestic violence when determining custody?
Tennessee has laws that explicitly permit the consideration of domestic violence in conjunction with child custody. This may mean that domestic violence is a statutory factor in custody determinations, that the court has a presumption against custody for abusers, or that special procedural considerations are imposed in cases involving domestic violence.
Do the courts in the state of Tennessee have the right to hire an attorney or Guardian Ad Litem to represent the child?
Tennessee has statutory authority for appointment of a guardian ad litem or attorney specifically to represent the child in a custody case. This person advocates for the best interest of the child, and is tasked with investigating the family situation and advising the court what custody situation would be in the best interests of the child.