If you are the parent of a minor child and you are going through a divorce, your biggest concerns will undoubtedly surround your child and how the divorce will impact your child. Ideally, you and your spouse will be able to reach an amicable agreement that resolves all issues in the divorce, including those relating to your child. Parents are often confused, and concerned, about how “visitation” will work after the divorce is final. Is there a “standard” visitation schedule and, if so, must you adhere to it? A Murfreesboro divorce attorney sheds some light on the subject of parenting time post-divorce.
Understanding the Terminology
While people still routinely use the terms “custody” and “visitation,” the law no longer recognizes those terms in the State of Tennessee. Like most states, Tennessee now uses terms that promote shared parenting, such as “primary residential parent” and “parenting time.” If you will be the primary residential parent, your child’s other parent will be the alternate residential parent.
The Parenting Plan
The two of you will be required to submit a Parenting Plan for the court’s approval before the divorce can be finalized. That plan should include the following:
- Provide for the child’s changing needs as the child grows and matures, in a way that minimizes the need for further modifications to the permanent parenting plan;
- Establish the authority and responsibilities of each parent with respect to the child, consistent with the criteria in this part;
- Minimize the child’s exposure to harmful parental conflict;
- Provide for a process for dispute resolution, before court action, unless precluded or limited by § 36-6-406; provided, that state agency cases are excluded from the requirement of dispute resolution as to any child support issue involved;
- Allocate decision-making authority to one (1) or both parties regarding the child’s education, health care, extracurricular activities, and religious upbringing. The parties may incorporate an agreement related to the care and growth of the child in these specified areas, or in other areas, into their plan, consistent with the criteria in this part. Regardless of the allocation of decision making in the parenting plan, the parties may agree that either parent may make emergency decisions affecting the health or safety of the child;
- Provide that each parent may make the day-to-day decisions regarding the care of the child while the child is residing with that parent;
- Provide that when mutual decision making is designated but cannot be achieved, the parties shall make a good-faith effort to resolve the issue through the appropriate dispute resolution process, subject to the exception set forth in subdivision (a)(4)(F);
- Require the obligor to report annually on a date certain to the obligee, and the department of human services or its contractor in Title IV-D cases, on a form provided by the court, the obligor’s income as defined by the child support guidelines and related provisions contained in title 36, chapter 5; and
- Specify that if the driver license of a parent is currently expired, canceled, suspended or revoked or if the parent does not possess a valid driver license for any other reason, the parent shall make acceptable transportation arrangements as may be necessary to protect and ensure the health, safety and welfare of the child when such child is in the custody of such parent.
- Include a residential schedule as defined in § 36-6-402(3) that outlines when the children will spend parenting time with each parent post-divorce.
Your “Parenting Time” Schedule
Although your Parenting Plan should include a “residential schedule,” as noted above, there is no “standard” schedule that you are required to follow. Your parenting time schedule does, however, need to include the following:
- A residential schedule that specifies a primary residence for the child, designates in which parent’s home the child shall reside in and when, and serve as a regular schedule for how the child will spend time with each parent on a frequent, ongoing basis.
- A holiday schedule which may include birthdays and special occasions, such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and three-day weekends, so that the child may spend an equitable amount of time with each parent on holidays.
- A vacation schedule or provisions for spending vacation time so the child may spend extended time with each parent during school breaks and the parents’ personal vacation times.
As long as both parents agree to the schedule, and the court believes that the schedule is in the best interest of the child, there is no reason the court would be likely to reject the schedule.
Contact a Murfreesboro Divorce Attorney
If you have additional questions or concerns about parenting time or other divorce-related concerns, consult with an experienced Murfreesboro divorce attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.