Area of Law:
When a couple divorces and there is a minor child involved, the divorce decree will specify who has physical custody as well as legal custody of the child. Physical custody determines where and with whom the child will live. Legal custody specifies who has the legal right to make important decisions about the child related to issues such as education, religion, medical issues, and discipline. Spouses often reach an agreement regarding child custody on their own, but if they do not, a Tennessee court will intervene and establish custody arrangements based on the best interest of the child. Divorcesource.com provides a complete summary of divorce and custody laws in the state of Tennessee.
There are typically several different custody arrangements that may be made for children of divorced parents. In most cases, courts will award physical custody to one parent with whom the child will live most of the time. The parent with physical custody, or the custodial parent, often shares legal custody, or the right to make decisions regarding the child, with the non-custodial parent. Many child custody arrangements involve joint custody in which the child spends a relatively equal amount of time with each parent.
According to Tennessee law, child custody decisions are made based on the best interest and welfare of the child. The court may award sole custody to one spouse, or joint custody to the spouses, or even custody to a third party. Tennessee courts favor joint custody if both parents agree. In making a custody determination, the court considers all relevant factors, including the following:
- Love, affection, and emotional ties existing between the parents and the child
- Disposition of the parents to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, education, and other necessary care and the degree to which a parent has been the primary caregiver
- Importance of continuity in the child's life and the length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment
- Stability of the family unit of the parents
- Mental and physical health of the parents
- Home, school, and community record of the child
- The reasonable preference of the child if he or she is age 12 or older
- Physical or emotional abuse to the child, to the other parent, or to any other person
- Character and behavior of any other person who resides in or frequents the home of a parent
- Each parent's past and potential for future performance of parenting responsibilities
In Tennessee, the court may award either sole or shared custody if it is in the best interest of the child. If the court orders sole custody, it will usually award the non-custodial parent visitation rights to see the child. After the custody order is signed by the judge and filed with the Tennessee court, both parents are bound by it. However, a material change in circumstances will justify a modification of a child custody order. The court will then consider the petition to modify custody using a best interest standard. Tennessee courts will set visitation unless visitation would place the child in imminent danger of harm. The courts also set holiday and special occasion visitation. For a comprehensive review of child custody laws in North Dakota, go to lawyers.com.