When a married couple decides to file for divorce, there are many things they need to consider. Not only do they need to untie the life they built together by separating property and assets, but if the couple shares children, they also need to make some important decisions about parenting those children. Tennessee family law courts award either sole custody to one parent or joint custody to both parents during a Tennessee child custody case. Should a parent receive sole physical custody of the child involved in the case, it is very likely that the noncustodial parent will then be awarded visitation.
Parenting Plans and Parenting Time in Tennessee
Before the court makes an official order, they encourage the parents to work together in order to create their own parenting plan that best serves the child’s interests as well as their schedules. During this process, the parents often create a calendar that shows when the child resides with each parent during the week, on the weekends, during school breaks, and also holidays. This plan also has to determine how the parents go about making decisions regarding the child’s education, healthcare, community involvement, and other activities.
Once the parents have created this plan, the court reviews it to ensure that the child’s best interests are being considered and that his or her needs are being met. Additionally, the court confirms that the child will be in contact with both parents and that he or she will not be exposed to any conflicts happening between the parents. The parenting plan also has to include how the parents are planning to settle any disputes, whether it be through arbitration, mediation, or another outlined way. If the judge agrees to this plan, it is adopted into a Tennessee child custody order.
What Happens When Parents Cannot Agree on a Parenting Plan?
Should the parents not be able to come to an agreement on a parenting plan on their own, they may request that a judge make a decision regarding custody for them. The judge looks at many different factors to help determine the schedule of when the child resides with each parent, and he or she also chooses a schedule that is in the child’s best interests. Some of these factors include each parent’s ability to help prepare the child for adult life, what the child’s relationship is with each parent, and the parents’ ability to meet the child’s basic needs.
The court also investigates which parent has been the primary caregiver, both parents’ work schedules are, and the involvement the child has in school and extracurricular activities. Should the child be over the age of 12, the court may also take his or her wishes into consideration for the Tennessee child custody arrangement. Additionally, the judge evaluates whether or not both parents have acted in good faith during the child custody in Tennessee case. The court’s overall goal is to create a custody agreement that does not disrupt that child’s life and allows for the child to maintain a positive and loving relationship with both parents.
Custody Agreement Modification in Tennessee
Whether the parenting plan was created by the parents or ordered by the court, there will likely be a point when changes need to be made to the agreement. This happens most often as children age and their needs begin to change or if one parent has significant changes happening in his or her life. Should both parents agree with the proposed changes, they can present these changes to the court for approval – as long as the changes maintain the child’s best interests and are agreed upon by the parents, they are generally adopted as part of the agreement.
Issues can arise, however, when the parents are not in agreement about the modifications needing to be made to the existing agreement. Again, when the parents cannot agree on changes, they can request that a judge review the proposed modifications and make a final decision. Since modifications to a Tennessee child custody agreement can cause disruptions in a child’s life, the court does not approve every request, and the parent making the request has to prove that a significant life event has caused a need for changes to be made to the current agreement.
Custody Agreement and Relocation in Tennessee
In custody agreements where one parent has sole custody and the other parent has child visitation, the idea of relocation can often be a difficult one to deal with. Often times, the custodial parent relocating with the child can mean significant changes in how often the noncustodial parent gets to see the child or how much travel is involved in order to see him or her. Relocation can often cause heated arguments in court, especially when the noncustodial parent is losing time with the child.
In the rare cases that both parents are in agreement about the relocation, they can propose the needed changes to the custody agreement to the Tennessee family court system for approval. As long as the parents are in agreement and the relocation is within the child’s best interests, the relocation and modification to the agreement is generally adopted. Issues can arise, however, when the custodial parent wishes to relocate and the noncustodial parent does not want to allow the move with the child to happen.
When the parents cannot agree on the relocation, they can once again ask the court to make a decision regarding the move. The judge needs to look at a number of different factors in order to determine whether or not the relocation and the proposed changes to the Tennessee Child custody agreement should be allowed. Some of the factors the judge considers include, but are not limited to, what is listed below:
- The reason given by the custodial parent for relocation
- The reason given by the noncustodial parent for contesting the relocation
- The proposed benefits the child will receive due to relocating, such as a better job for the parent, better educational opportunities, better medical care, etc.
- The proposed location of where the custodial parent is relocating to and the distance between that location and the noncustodial parent’s location
- The relationship between the child and both the custodial and noncustodial parent
- The current custody agreement and visitation schedule and how this agreement and schedule needs to change
- Alternative communications methods the noncustodial parent can use to keep in touch with the child and who is responsible for paying for that communication
- Depending on the child’s age, his or her preference for whom to live with and any feelings on the relocation