Becoming a parent is a life-changing experience for most people. In a perfect world, the parents of a minor child are in a loving, committed relationship and continue to live together and raise the child together. We all know, however, that the world is not always perfect. In the United States, about 40 percent of all babies are born to unwed parents. Of the parents who are married when their child is born, about half of them will eventually divorce. Consequently, issues relating to custody of minor children are common sources of conflict between the parents. If you have specific questions relating to your unique situation it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced child custody lawyer. For general information, however, a Tennessee child custody lawyer offers insight into the top five custody related questions.
- Who has custody of a child born out of wedlock (to unmarried parents)? When the parents of a minor child get divorced, custody of the minor child must be determined as part of the divorce proceedings. If the parents were never married, however, the issue of custody is not even actually an issue. The mother of a child born out of wedlock has full custodial rights to the child absent a court order to the contrary. In practice, this means that a father must legally establish paternity before he has any legal rights to the child at all. Simply acknowledging to the public, or even putting your name on a child’s birth certificate, is not sufficient to legally establish paternity. Legally establishing paternity in Tennessee can be accomplished by agreement if both parents sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity or by petitioning a court to order DNA testing.
- What is a Parenting Plan? The parents of a minor child who are divorcing must submit a “Parenting Plan” to the court as part of the divorce process. If the parents cannot agree on the terms of the plan the court will create the plan for them. A Parenting Plan is like a parenting roadmap for the parents to use post-divorce. It will typically include things such as who has decision making authority, where the child will live most of the time, and what the parenting time schedule will be as well as the amount of child support to be paid by one parent to the other and how conflicts will be resolved in the future.
- Can I move out of state with my kids? Can I stop my ex from moving out of state with my kids? Unless your child’s other parent has absolutely no parental rights or you were given prior authority in a divorce decree, you may not relocate to another state with a minor child without the other parent’s agreement or the court’s approval. If your child’s other parent plans to move out of state with your child, you are required to be formally notified and provided an opportunity to file a written objection with the court.
- Do they ever give custody of the kids to a father? In a word, YES. The old presumption that minor children should always live with the mother after a divorce no longer applies when custody is disputed. The law requires the court to make custody decisions based solely on the “best interest of the child” standard without regard to the sex of the parent.
- Can we change the custody arrangements after the divorce? A divorce decree is one of the few final orders of the court that is regularly modified after the fact. It is possible to change the custodial arrangements after a divorce is finalized; however, it is usually more difficult to do after the fact. If both parents agree to the change the new arrangements can be submitted to the court in an agreed entry. If the parents do not agree, a petition must be filed with the court asking the court to modify the current order. For the court to agree to the requested change, the court must first determine whether there has been a “material change in circumstances” and whether the change affects the well-being of the child. If the answer to the first question is yes, then the court will have to decide whether the best interest of the child would be served by modifying the parent serving as the primary residential parent.
Contact a Tennessee Child Custody Lawyer
If you have questions or concerns about child custody in the State of Tennessee, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Tennessee child custody lawyer at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.