Of all the issues related to divorce or co-parenting, the issue of custody is the most likely to cause costly litigation. Whether during an initial divorce or after the fact, when the issue of custody is contested it can turn contentious between the parties very quickly. If you find yourself in a position where you are seeking custody of your minor child, you undoubtedly want to be in the best position possible to win. A Murfreesboro child custody lawyer offers some basic information about winning custody of your minor child in Tennessee.
Understanding the Terminology
Although most people still routinely use terms such as “custody” and “visitation,” it is important for prospective litigants to understand that the law no longer uses those terms. Instead, the parent who has the child the majority of the time is referred to as the “primary residential parent” while the other parent is the “alternative residential parent.” Time a child spends with a parent is referred to as “parenting time.”
When Is Custody Decided?
If the parents of a minor child are married, and decide to end that marriage, the ensuing divorce process will determine who will be the primary and alternative residential parent. As part of that divorce, a Parenting Plan must be created and submitted to the court for approval. The details of the Parenting Plan will be determined by the court if the parents cannot reach an agreement. Therefore, the issue of “custody” is initially decided during a divorce if the parents were married; however, issues related to the minor children, including custody, can be brought back up and litigated again long after a divorce is finalized.
Historically, when the parents of a minor child ended their marriage, physical custody of the minor child was awarded to the mother absent a very good reason to deny her custody. Legal custody, which referred to the right to make important decisions relating to the child, was often awarded jointly to both parents. Today, when the parents of a minor child divorce, both parents are strongly encouraged to remain in the child’s life by exercising “parenting time” with the child. Finally, the law forbids presumptions based on the sex of the parent when making decisions relating to the children. In fact, all decisions relating to a minor child must be made using the “best interest of the child” standard.
How Can I Win Custody?
Fighting for custody of your child is among the most stressful things you will ever do – and undoubtedly the most important. There is no magic formula that guarantees you will be successful in your quest to become the primary residential parent. Furthermore, given the unique facts of every custody case, it is always best to consult in person with an experienced Tennessee custody lawyer. In the meantime, however, there are a few things you can do, or refrain from doing, that may help you win primary custody of your child, including:
- Familiarize yourself with the factors a judge is allowed to consider in a Tennessee custody case.
- Tell your lawyer everything relating to those factors – the good and the bad so your lawyer is prepared.
- If you already are the primary residential parent and the children are healthy, well-adjusted, and thriving, gather as much proof of that as possible.
- If you believe the other parent is behaving inappropriately or is not caring for your child, be prepared to back up those suspicions. You might even need to hire a private investigator.
- Do not make any major changes in your employment situation while the case is pending.
- Do not start a new relationship while the case is pending.
- If you are already in a relationship, be prepared for your significant other to become part of the case.
- If your child is old enough, ask your child where he/she wants to live. If the answer is with you, consider putting your child on the stand.
- Remain calm. Keep any fighting or bickering with the other parent to a minimum.
- Keep the lines of communication with the other parent open as judges usually find this an important indicator of a good parent.
Contact a Murfreesboro Child Custody Lawyer
If you have additional questions or concerns about winning custody of your minor child, consult with an experienced Murfreesboro child custody lawyer immediately. Contact the team at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.