When the parents of a minor child end a marriage the issue of child custody is settled during the divorce. In other circumstances, such as if the parents were never married, custody issues are decided through parentage or custody actions in the Juvenile Court. Sometimes these custody issues are resolved peacefully by agreement; however, in other cases custody can be an extremely contentious and adversarial issue. Moreover, custody is an issue than can resurface long after the initial divorce or juvenile proceeding reaches a conclusion. Under certain circumstances a non-custodial parent can petition for custody at any time after the initial custody order is issued. Whether you find yourself in a divorce custody battle or are involved in a custody modification case, you need the experienced Tennessee child custody attorneys on your side to ensure the issues are decided in the best interests of your children and that your rights are protected.
At Bennett & Michael, Attorneys at Law, our child custody attorneys understand the emotionally charged nature of a custody case. This is why we are committed to providing sound legal advice and compassionate representation to our Murfreesboro, Tennessee child custody clients. Contact us today at 615-898-1560 to schedule your free consultation so we can determine how best to proceed with your case.
Types of Custody
“Custody” is often a misunderstood term in Tennessee. “Sole custody” is uncommon in this state. Most parents these days have some form of shared custody. In a shared custody arrangement each parent has “parenting time” with the child on specified days and times according to a parenting plan (which is a court order). The parenting plan also specifies items such as designating the parent that will have decision-making authority over the child’s education, religious upbringing, non-emergency health care, and extracurricular activities. The parenting plan will also specify each parent’s responsibility for financial matters such as child support, transportation expenses, and healthcare expenses. Each parenting plan is different according to individual circumstances, agreement by the parties, or court order. For example, some plans resemble what was once commonly known as “joint custody”, where each parent would have equal parenting time, while other plans may have shared time, but one parent would have the child more days during the year than the other. Regardless, the contents and terms of a parenting plan must either be agreed upon by the parents, or ordered by the court after hearing proof at trial.
How Is Custody Determined?
When the parties are unable to agree on custody of a minor child, either during a divorce or because a request to modify the original custody order has been filed, a court must decide the issues. The court is required to consider the best interests of the child as paramount in every case. In making that decision the court considers a number of factors, including:
- The love and affection and overall relationship between the child and the child’s parents or caregivers including the strength, nature, and stability of the child’s relationship with each parent.
- The degree to which a parent has been the primary caregiver
- The mental and physical health of the parents or caregivers.
- The child’s interaction and relationships with siblings and with significant adults, as well as the child’s involvement with his or her physical surroundings, school, or other significant activities.
- The parent or caregiver’s ability to provide food, clothing, a proper education, and medical care for the child.
- The child’s home, school, and community record. Continuity in the child’s life is important.
- Any history of physical or emotional abuse to the child, the other parent, or anyone in the home.
- The character and behavior of any other person who resides in or frequents the home of a parent and such person’s interaction with the child
- Each parent’s willingness to foster and encourage a relationship between the child and the child’s other parent.
In addition, Tennessee law requires the court to consider the reasonable preference of the child if the child is over the age of 12. The court may choose to hear the preference of a child under the age of 12.
At Bennett & Michael, Attorneys at Law, our child custody attorneys we are committed to ensuring that your children and your rights are protected and that you are zealously represented in your Murfreesboro, Tennessee child custody case. Contact us today at 615-898-1560 to schedule a free evaluation of your case to determine how best to proceed.