When the parents of a minor child decide to end their marriage, that decision will have a profound and lasting impact on the child. In an attempt to limit the negative impact a divorce has on the children of the marriage, the law requires a Parenting Plan to be approved by the court before the divorce can be finalized. The purpose of the Parenting Plan is to create a framework by which the parents can continue to co-parent the children post-divorce with as little conflict and confusion as possible. For those parents who may be contemplating divorce, a Murfreesboro divorce attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby explains what is required in a Tennessee Parenting Plan.
Tennessee Parenting Plan Requirements
In the State of Tennessee, Tennessee Code Section 36-6-404 governs the requirements of a Parenting Plan. According to that statute, a permanent Parenting Plan must accomplish at least the following:
- Provide for the child’s changing needs as the child grows and matures, in a way that minimizes the need for further modifications to the permanent parenting plan;
- Establish the authority and responsibilities of each parent with respect to the child, consistent with the criteria in this part;
- Minimize the child’s exposure to harmful parental conflict;
- Provide for a process for dispute resolution, before court action, unless precluded or limited by § 36-6-406; provided, that state agency cases are excluded from the requirement of dispute resolution as to any child support issue involved;
- Allocate decision-making authority to one (1) or both parties regarding the child’s education, health care, extracurricular activities, and religious upbringing. The parties may incorporate an agreement related to the care and growth of the child in these specified areas, or in other areas, into their plan, consistent with the criteria in this part. Regardless of the allocation of decision making in the parenting plan, the parties may agree that either parent may make emergency decisions affecting the health or safety of the child;
- Provide that each parent may make the day-to-day decisions regarding the care of the child while the child is residing with that parent;
- Provide that when mutual decision making is designated but cannot be achieved, the parties shall make a good-faith effort to resolve the issue through the appropriate dispute resolution process, subject to the exception set forth in subdivision (a)(4)(F);
- Require the obligor to report annually on a date certain to the obligee, and the department of human services or its contractor in Title IV-D cases, on a form provided by the court, the obligor’s income as defined by the child support guidelines and related provisions contained in title 36, chapter 5; and
- Specify that if the driver license of a parent is currently expired, canceled, suspended or revoked or if the parent does not possess a valid driver license for any other reason, the parent shall make acceptable transportation arrangements as may be necessary to protect and ensure the health, safety and welfare of the child when such child is in the custody of such parent.
In addition, a permanent Parenting Plan must also include a residential schedule as defined in § 36-6-402(3) that outlines when the children will spend parenting time with each parent post-divorce. Ideally, the parents will be able to work together to create a parenting time schedule on which they can both agree. When that is the case, the court will approve the schedule agreed upon by the parties. If the parents cannot agree, the court may order appropriate dispute resolution proceedings, such as mediation, to help the parents reach an agreement. If an agreement is still not forthcoming on or before 45 days before the date set for trial, each party must file a proposed permanent Parenting Plan with the court and the final plan will be decided by the court at trial.
The above-referenced requirements for a Parenting Plan are just the minimal requirements as set forth in the statute. The plan created by parents can include additional provisions if the parents and/or the court wish to include them.
Contact a Murfreesboro Divorce Attorney
If you are the parent of a minor child and you are contemplating divorce in the State of Tennessee, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Murfreesboro divorce attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.