Going through a divorce, especially when you have children, is no easy feat. The whole situation can be anxiety provoking and frightening, especially as you wonder, “ How does a judge make custody decisions? ” This is an extremely important question that requires an accurate answer for your particular situation. For that reason it is important that you speak with a Tennessee family law attorney about your situation, though it can be helpful to understand the basics about how a judge makes custody decisions.
Custody is actually divided into two parts – physical custody and legal custody. Legal custody refers to a parent’s ability to decide important issues regarding a child such as where the child will attend school, what religion the child will practice, and what medical treatment the child will receive. Physical custody refers to the parent with whom the child will live the majority of the time. Tennessee follows a shared parenting model that seeks to award Legal custody and Physical custody to both parents as much as reasonably possible. The way in which the parents will share responsibilities is spelled out in detail in a document called a Parenting Plan.
Ultimately, it is goal of the court to make an order that will disrupt the children’s lives as little as possible and ensure that the children spend time with both parents. In an ideal world both parents would be able to work together to form a custody agreement that is both equitable to both parents and provides the children with ample time to spend with each parent. However, it is the rare divorce that goes that smoothly and you should never assume that just because your spouse was the most accommodating and fair person you knew when you were married that he or she will continue to act that way in divorce.
When a judge makes custody decisions he or she considers a variety of factors, including:
- Each parent’s ability to prepare the children for adulthood.
- The children’s relationship with each parent.
- The children’s emotional and developmental needs.
- The likelihood each parent can provide the children with necessities, including food and shelter.
- Which parent has been the children’s primary caregiver.
- In the case of children over 12 years of age, the parent that the child would prefer to live with.
Because divorces, especially those involving children, tend to get nasty very quickly, it is important to make a concerted effort to be civil and reasonable. This can be much easier when you have a Murfreesboro, Smyrna, or La Vergne family law attorney on your side. Many people think that retaining an attorney too early in the process can be counterproductive, but nothing could be further from the truth. The best thing you can do for you and your children is to retain an experienced Tennessee family law attorney as soon as the thought of divorce crosses your mind.