According to a recent study by Pew Research Center, approximately a quarter of U.S. children under the age of 18 live with only one parent. Child custody is often a key concern in divorce. If you are considering divorce or have just been served with divorce papers, it is crucial that you consult with a knowledgeable Tennessee child custody attorney for detailed guidance.
Our team at McCarter | East PLLC have dedicated their careers to providing strong representation in matters of divorce, child custody, and support. As experienced Tennessee family law attorneys, we will help you fight for you and your family’s rights. We will provide the proper guidance and advocacy you need to establish or modify child custody arrangements. We proudly serve clients throughout Murfreesboro and Berry Hill, Tennessee.
Establishing a Child Custody Arrangement
Child custody can be a combative and complicated matter. Tennessee courts are diligent in their protection of the welfare and best interest of the child. In establishing a child custody arrangement, parents have two options:
The parents work together to determine mutually acceptable terms of custody and present them to the court for approval. Whenever possible, this is the quickest, least expensive, and often, most painless option. Furthermore, parents have more control over the final outcome. An experienced attorney can help to keep the conversation productive.
If the parents are unable to come to an agreement, the case will be brought before a family court. The presiding judge will use their own judgment to establish a custody arrangement in the child’s best interest. A family law attorney can help present your case and give you the best chance of arriving at the custody arrangement that is best for your family and future.
Primary Residential Parent
In Tennessee, the term primary residential parent (PRP) refers to the parent with whom the child stays with for more than 50% of the time. Even when both parents share exactly equal time with their child, a primary residential parent is declared in order to delineate specific rights and responsibilities of the primary residential parent including:
Making a decision on the day-to-day care of the child
Determining how the child will be raised
Having final decision-making authority on matters of health care, education, religious upbringing, and extracurricular activities
Other Parent Rights and Responsibilities
In Tennessee, the non-primary residential parent is referred to as the alternative residential parent (ARP) or non-custodial parent. According to Tennessee Code Annotated Section 36-6-101(a)(3), the non-custodial parent has the right to:
Unhindered telephone conversations with the child at least twice a week
Send mail to the child which the other parent shall not destroy, deface, open, or censor
Receive a notice and relevant information regarding the child within 24 hours of any major injury, illness, hospitalization, or death of the child
Receive educational records directly from the child's school
Receive copies of the child's medical, health or other treatment records directly from the health care provider
Factors Considered In Determining Custody
According to Tennessee Code - Title 36, Sections 36-6-106, based on the best interest of the child, the court may award custody to either parent or to both parents for joint custody or shared parenting. The following factors are often considered in the court’s determination:
The love, affection, and emotional ties that exist between the parents and the child
The ability of the parent to provide the child's basic needs, such as food, medical care, clothing, and education
The mental and physical condition of the parents
The child's home, school, and community record
The importance of continuity in the child's life
Any history of physical or emotional abuse to the child
The stability of the parent's family unit
Modifying an Existing Custody Arrangement
There are certain major life events that may necessitate the need to request a change to an existing child custody agreement. These include:
Loss of job by the custodial parent
A change in the physical or mental health of either parent
Failure of the custodial parent to hold up their end of the agreement
Perceived danger to the child due to domestic violence in the custodial parent's house
A parent consistently ignoring the scheduled parenting time
A change in the work-schedule of either parent
Neglect or abuse by either parent
When the custodial parent intentionally prevents the other parent from spending the agreed parenting time with the child
The death of the custodial parent
How Legal Counsel Can Help Your Case
Determining child custody and scheduling parenting time can be difficult and emotional. Having an experienced family law attorney is critical for proper guidance and maintenance of your family’s well-being.
With more than 40 years of combined legal experience, our knowledgeable attorneys at McCarter | East PLLC can help you establish or modify child custody arrangements. Our team will work with all parties involved to negotiate a fair parenting agreement, including child custody and parenting time.