Creating Your Tennessee Parenting Time Schedule

When minor children are part of a divorce, Tennessee law requires the parents to submit a Parenting Plan to the court as part of the divorce proceedings. Often, one of the most difficult (and sometimes contentious) aspects of a divorce is creating the parenting time schedule that must be included in the overall Parenting Plan. To help get you started with your plan, a Murfreesboro child custody lawyer at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby explains common options for creating your Tennessee parenting time schedule.

What Is a Parenting Plan?

When the parents of a minor child (or children) decide to legally end the marriage, Tennessee law requires a Parenting Plan to be approved before the divorce can be finalized. The Parenting Plan requirement is intended to provide stability and consistency in the lives of the children as well as foster a continued parent-child relationship with both parents post-divorce. Tennessee law specifically says that “the best interests of the child are served by a parenting arrangement that best maintains a child’s emotional growth, health and stability, and physical care.” 

Tennessee no longer uses the terms “custody” and “visitation” when referring to where and with whom a minor child will live after a divorce. Instead, one parent is designated as the “Primary Residential Parent (PRP)” and the other as the “Alternative Residential Parent (ARP).” These designations must be included in the Parenting Plan.

A “residential schedule” must be included in the overall Parenting Plan. The schedule determines when the child is in each parent’s physical care as well as designating in which parent’s home each minor child shall reside on given days of the year, including provisions for holidays, birthdays of family members, vacations, and other special occasions. 

Common Parenting Time Schedules

Parents can agree to a parenting time schedule that does not conform to any of the commonly used schedules if it works for them. Likewise, a court may devise a parenting time schedule that does not look like any of the common ways in which parenting time is divided; however, the following commonly used schedules may give you a starting point if you are trying to create a residential schedule.

  • Unequal parenting time. Despite the frequent use of the term, there is no official “standard” parenting time plan in Tennessee. There is, however, a commonly used parenting time schedule when parenting time is not equal. This schedule gives the ARP about 23 percent of the child’s time and typically includes the child spending time with the ARP on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th (if a month has five weekends) weekends each month, two weeks during the summer break, and half of the holidays. 
  • Extended unequal parenting. This schedule starts with the basic unequal parenting schedule mentioned above and adds in additional time. This may be accomplished in several ways. The most common way to extend the basic unequal parenting schedule is by adding in an evening during the school week, extending weekends by starting them on Thursday or ending them on Monday, or providing for more than two weeks in the summer.
  • Equal parenting time. When the goal is to give both parents equal time with the child, a parenting plan may simply alternate weeks, having the child live with one parent one week one and the other parent on week two and so on throughout the year. Another way to schedule equal time is the 2-2-3 schedule. With this schedule, a child spends two days with one parent, the following two days with the other, then returns to the first parent for three days. The next week, the parents switch, and the schedule starts with the other parent. 

Contact a Murfreesboro Child Custody Lawyer

If you have questions or concerns about how to get started creating a parenting time schedule for a Tennessee divorce, contact a Murfreesboro child custody lawyer at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby as soon as possible to discuss your options by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.