In all Tennessee child custody cases, the court encourages parents to work out a custody plan that is in the best interests of the child (children). If an agreement cannot be reached, the court will decide what solution works best. Tennessee has two types of custody. Legal custody addresses which parent will make the health and well-being decisions for the child, starting with the education. Physical custody determines under whose roof the child will sleep at night.
Each of the two types of custody can be joint or sole. Joint legal custody means both parents make the daily and long-term decisions—though one parent is given tie-breaking authority, so parents don’t run into court every time there is a dispute. Sole legal custody means only one parent has the authority to make general welfare decisions.
Joint physical custody means the child will likely spend some days and nights with the mother and some with the father. Sole physical custody means the child will live full time with one parent and the other parent will have visitation rights at specific times.
How are custody decisions made?
When parents can’t agree, the court will award legal and physical custody based on a variety of factors. Often, even when parents do agree, it is because they or their attorneys considered these factors, which are spelled out in the Tennessee statutes. The factors include:
- The love, emotional bonds, and affection that exists between the child and the parents.
- The ability of each parent to give the child medical care, food, clothing, education, and other care.
- The need of the child for stability, except in cases where child abuse was or is a reason for relocating.
- The stability of the family unit.
- The physical and mental health of each parent.
- The child’s past education record and home and community involvement.
- The child’s reasonable preferences if the child is 12-years old or more. The preferences of younger children may also be considered, but the younger the child, the less weight his/her opinion has.
- Evidence of emotional or physical abuse by the other parent.
- The character of anyone else who lives in the parent’s home and how that person interacts with the child.
- The general ability to be a good parent, including promoting relationship between the child and the other parent
The decision process also applies to legal caretakers.
At LaFevor & Slaughter, we work to find child custody solutions that will last for the child’s non-adult years, better preparing the child for adult life. We have 38 years’ experience helping parents and children minimize the impacts of divorce by putting the child first. To speak with a Knoxville child custody attorney, please phone us at 865-637-6258. You can also schedule an appointment by completing our contact form.