Child Custody in Tennessee


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. 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



HELP please

My daughter has a child that just turned 1 . The father and her have joint custody which she was bullied into signing. The father has some connections with the legal system. 2 week rotation and the father will just choose not to bring the baby for her two weeks and there is nothing my daughter can do. Now he is filing a fraudulent claim of neglect and abuse (which can be proven to be false) and he is saying that he doesn't have to bring him back and there is nothing she can do. The attorney that was handling the case just told her that her case load was full and she now has to find different representation (which is very costly) She is at the end of her rope. All she wants is to be a mother to her child but every time she thinks its over and she can create some sort of STABLE environment, the father runs to the courts and pulls whatever strings he has and the end result is my grandson could possibly never see his mom again and if she does it will have to be by the father rules. I thought the courts were suppose to take care of and have the best interest of the child. Any advice or help would be appreciated
confused and scared Grandmother

I've dealt with this from my

I've dealt with this from my ex. He would run off to another county with our children when his weekend was over to keep from bringing them back to me. I got a quick attorney and come to find out your u call file charges on him if its in the parenting plan what days you get the child and he doesn't bring them. Its called "custodial interference" check into it. It was worth it to me because its a class E felony and he doeant threaten me with not giving them back. Also what her is doing is a form of emotional abuse. Not good for the child either. Im fighting now to make his visits supervised because of emotional and mental abuse. Good luck.

I need help with getting

I need help with getting custody from an unfit mother that is currently in jail for DUI and child endangerment. Any help would be much appreciated because of the lack of time I have.