TENNESSEE CHILD CUSTODY AND VISITATION ATTORNEYS

Parents play the most important role in a child’s life.  As a result, we make every effort to craft a parenting plan that recognizes that role.  We take the necessary steps to insure that relationship is maintained, even in the most difficult divorce and custody cases.

 

We take the time to encourage our clients to work together with the other parent to fashion an agreement that maximizes both parents' involvement in the life of the children.  Unfortunately, that is not always possible.  When an agreement is not possible, we fight hard to insure our client’s interests and the interests of the children are protected.  We will stand with you throughout the entire process.

We can help you protect your time with your children

Parenting plans have not always been required.  In fact, the current Tennessee parenting plan was not put into place until 2000.  Prior to 2000, the courts used the terms “custody” and “visitation.”  Those terms have been replaced with “primary residential parent” and “parenting time.”

 

Parenting plans are now used by the courts to designate the primary residential parent and the alternate residential parent.  The parent who spends the majority of time with the children is designated as the primary residential parent and the other parent is referred to as the alternate residential parent.  Despite the common misconception that being designated as the primary residential parent gives one more authority to make decisions, it is only used for state or federal law such as for determining the school zone in which the children live.

 

In addition, parenting plans set out the parenting schedule, divide up the holidays and vacations, and determine which parent will make the decisions about the children’s education, religious upbringing, non-emergency healthcare and the extra-curricular activities in which the children will participate.  Most parenting plans give the parents equal decision making authority.  Some give one parent the option to make the final decision pending mediation.

Determining the children’s best interest

The overwhelming majority of parenting plans are agreed to by the parents.  The court is then required to review the agreed upon plan to determine whether it is in the best interest of the minor children.  Occasionally, the parties cannot agree on a parenting plan and are each required to submit a proposed parenting plan to the court.  The court must then decide which parenting plan to approve, or must fashion a new plan based on the evidence and what is in the children’s best interest.

 

The Tennessee Legislature has directed the courts to formulate a parenting arrangement that gives each parent the maximum participation possible in the lives of the children.  The Legislature has set forth the following 14 factors the courts are to consider when making the custody determination:

 

  • The strength, nature, and stability of the child's relationship with each parent, and which parent has performed the majority of parenting responsibilities

  • Each parent's past and potential for future performance of parenting responsibilities, including the willingness and ability of each of the parents and caregivers to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent

  • The refusal of a parent to attend a court ordered parent education seminar

  • The disposition of each parent to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, education and other necessary care

  • The degree to which a parent has been the primary caregiver

  • The love, affection, and emotional ties existing between each parent and the child

  • The emotional needs and developmental level of the child

  • The moral, physical, mental and emotional fitness of each parent as it relates to their ability to parent the child

  • The child's interaction and interrelationships with siblings, other relatives and step-relatives, and mentors, as well as the child's involvement with the child's physical surroundings, school, or other significant activities

  • The importance of continuity in the child's life and the length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment

  • Evidence of physical or emotional abuse to the child, to the other parent or to any other person

  • The character and behavior of any other person who resides in or frequents the home of a parent and such person's interactions with the child

  • The reasonable preference of the child if twelve (12) years of age or older

  • Each parent's employment schedule

The effect of custody on child support

Although custody decisions are separate and distinct from child support decisions, parenting time can have an effect on the child support calculation.  As a result, it is important to consider that effect when attempting to work out a parenting arrangement.  There are several points to keep in mind when negotiating parenting time and the effect of that schedule on child support:

 

  • It usually costs more to have physical custody of children than it does to pay child support to the other parent—kids are expensive

  • You cannot withhold parenting time from a parent because that parent is behind on child support

  • Private agreements between parents as to the amount of child support are not binding on the courts—remember, child support is for the benefit of the child, not the other parent

  • The court will look at the “actual” time being spent with the children when calculating child support, not necessarily the parenting time contained in the parenting plan

  • Child support is paid until a child turns eighteen or graduates from high school, whichever occurs last, but once a child turns eighteen, the parenting time can no longer be adjusted for child support purposes

  • Even if parents are spending equal time with the children, that does not necessarily mean that no child support will be paid

  • If the parenting schedule changes, child support can also be changed

Put our knowledge and experience to work for you in your child custody case

Contact us to schedule a confidential consultation at our conveniently located offices in Memphis, Tennessee by calling us at 901-410-5490, or in Middle Tennessee by calling us at 615-656-7920, or by sending us an email at info@rivercitylaw.com.