Tennessee Divorce Guide

Child Custody

Tennessee defines custody as the care, Child custodycustody and control of a child less than 18 years old. There is a presumption that joint custody is in the best interests of the child when the parents agree in writing or in open court. Courts will approve any of the following, based on the needs of the child:

  • Legal custody – refers to a custody type that awards one or both parents the right and responsibility to make legal decisions for a child regarding education, religious affiliation, health care or for the child’s general welfare
  • Sole legal custody – refers to a custody type that awards to one parent the right and responsibility to make legal decisions for a child regarding education, religious affiliation, health care or for the child’s general welfare
  • Joint legal custody – refers to both parents having the right and responsibility to make legal decisions for a child regarding education, religious affiliation, health care or for the child’s general welfare. The court will often grant to one parent the right to have primary residential (physical) custody
  • Physical custody – defines where and with whom the child will live
  • Sole physical custody – refers to a custody type that allows a child to live with each parent for a substantial amount of time during each year. This type does not require a 50/50 split of time but does require a consistent schedule
  • Joint custody is generally granted in fewer instances because the nature of joint legal and joint physical custody requires that the parents put aside their differences and work together for the benefit of their child, and most divorced couples find that challenge difficult to manage.

Tennessee and its family court system makes child custody determinations regarding a minor upon the basis of the best interest of the child. Parents are encouraged to agree on a Parenting Plan and Child Visitation Schedule. Should those efforts fail, the court will provide its own plan. Whether you create the child custody plan, or the family court does, the parenting plan will reflect any or all relevant factors including the following:

  • The disposition of the parents to provide the child with Custody of your kidsfood, clothing, medical care, education and other necessary care and the degree to which a 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 love, affection and emotional ties existing between the parents and child
  • The stability of the family unit of the parents
  • The mental and physical health of the parents
  • The home, school and community record of the child
  • The reasonable preference of the child if twelve (12) years of age or older
  • Evidence of physical or emotional abuse to the child, to the other parent or to any other person
  • The character and behavior of any other person who resides in or frequents the home of a parent or caregiver and the person’s interactions with the child
  • Each parent’s past and potential for future performance of parenting responsibilities, including the willingness and ability of each of the parents to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent
Tennessee parent rights
  • The right to receive notice and relevant information as soon as practicable but within twenty-four (24) hours of any event of hospitalization, major illness or death of the child
  • The right to unimpeded telephone conversations with the child at least twice a week at reasonable times and for reasonable durations
  • The right to send mail to the child that the other parent shall Primary custodynot open or censor
  • The right to receive directly from the child’s school records, names of teachers, class schedules, standardized test scores, and any other records customarily made available to parents, upon written request that includes a current mailing address and upon payment of reasonable costs of duplicating
  • The right to be free of unwarranted derogatory remarks made about such parent or such parent’s family by the other parent to or in the presence of the child
  • Unless otherwise provided by law, the right to receive copies of the child’s medical, health or other treatment records directly from the physician or health care provider who provided such treatment or health care upon written request that contains a current mailing address and upon payment of reasonable costs of duplication; provided, that no person who receives the mailing address of a parent as a result of this requirement shall provide such address to the other parent or a third person
  • The right to be given at least forty-eight (48) hours notice, whenever possible, of all extra-curricular activities, and the opportunity to participate or observe, including, but not limited to, the following:

a. School activities
b. Athletic activities
c. Church activities
d. Other activities as to which parental participation or observation would be appropriate.

  • The right to receive from the other parent, in the event the other parent leaves the state with the minor child or children for more than two (2) days, an itinerary including telephone numbers for use in the event of an emergency
  • The right of access and participation in education, including the right of access to the minor child or children for lunch and other activities, on the same basis that is provided to all parents, provided the participation or access is reasonable and does not interfere with day-to-day operations or with the child’s educational performance
If there is a chance your Ex will try to manipulate you or the kids with the visitation schedule, put an on-line Parenting Plan in place. Nothing stops the game-playing like a schedule in black and white. Simply tell your Ex that in order for the schedule to be changed, it must be discussed and agreed to; otherwise it is not changing.
Your behavior can influence the custody and visitation orders

If a marriage separation has been decreed, the court can make further orders for the support and maintenance of either spouse and for the support, maintenance, and education of minor children, by either spouse, or out of the property of either spouse, as the court deems appropriate.

Tennessee law requires that if the custodial parent wishes to move to another location, and that location is more than 100 miles from the other parent (in state or out of state), the relocating parent must send a notice to the other parent at the other parent’s last known address by registered or certified mail at least 60 days prior to the move. The non-custodial parent is then free to challenge the relocation in court.

A copy of a child’s medical and school records must be furnished to the non-custodial parent upon written request, unless furnished with a court order closing the records.

Should the non-custodial parent willfully abandon a child for a period of eighteen (18) months or more, as provided in the permanent or temporary parenting plan, the court will be legally able to limit the non-custodial’s time with the child.

Save yourself the hassle by downloading divorce forms here

[Tennessee Code – Volume 6A, Title 36, Sections 36-4-106]

Share this page with friends on social media

Site AdminTennessee Divorce Guide

Leave a Reply