Tennessee Parenting Plans and Custody Agreements
This article covers custody agreements in Tennessee and gives guidelines on creating an effective parenting plan for Tennessee courts.
You can write up your own parenting plan (on your own or with the other parent) or you can work with an attorney or legal professional and have them create it. If you don't want to pay the high cost of an attorney, and want to easily make your own agreement, you can use the Custody X Change software.
Custody X Change is software that creates professional parenting plan documents and parenting schedules.
Creating a parenting plan in the State of Tennessee can be made easier by becoming familiar with the family laws of the state.
These laws can be found in the Tennessee Code, Title 36, Domestic Relations, Chapter 6, Custody and Visitation.
Other sources are available for researching family law, such as the Tennessee Practice, Vol. 19 and Vol. 19A, which is a collection of the treatment of Tennessee divorce law with references to case law and the statutes, and the Tennessee Jurisprudence: An Encyclopedia of Tennessee Law, which contains the topics of "Divorce and Alimony" and "Parent and Child".
The more knowledge you have, the better prepared you will be for court and for creating a parenting plan that not only complies with the law, but meets and exceeds the expectations of the court, as well.
In contested cases (and even in non-contested cases) where a parenting plan is subject to review by the court, the State of Tennessee holds the best interests and welfare of the child as the ultimate determinant when ruling on child custody and visitation.
When determining the child's best interests, the court considers all relevant factors, including, but not limited to (TC § 36-6-106):
- The quality of the loving, affectionate bonds between the child and each parent.
- Which parent has acted as the child's primary caregiver.
- The ability of each parent to provide the child with basic necessities, such as adequate food, clothing, medical care, shelter, and other necessary items.
- The continuity of the child's life in a satisfactory environment and the importance of maintaining that stability.
- The stability and suitability of each parent.
- The physical and mental health of each parent.
- The child's adjustment to his or her home, school, and community.
- The reasonable preference of the child, if the child is over 12.
- Children under 12 may offer their opinion, but not as much weight is given to their preference as they may be easily coerced.
- Any evidence of any type of abuse or neglect to the child, other family members, or any other person, perpetrated by a parent.
- The character of any person who frequents the home of a parent, and that person's interactions with the child.
- The history of care of the child.
- The likeliness of each parent to help foster a loving, nurturing relationship between the child and other parent.
- The likeliness of each parent to allow the child frequent, continuing contact with the other parent.
- Any other issues that may impact the child's best interest and well-being.
It is really quite simple: If you are able to work with the other parent and come up with a parenting plan, the court will review it, accept it, and make it a court order. If not, the court will determine the custodial arrangements of a child when the proceedings are contested by the parents and they are unable to agree.
Parents are strongly encouraged to work together to reach an agreement, and submit a parenting plan to the court. It is parents who have intimate knowledge of their child, and they are naturally better qualified to make decisions involving the care and custody of their own child.
Tennessee law (TC § 36-6-404) mandates that a parenting plan shall:
- Be developed in a manner that provides for the changing needs of the child as the child grows, minimizing the need to modify the parenting plan.
- Outline the responsibilities and authority of each parent, specifically pertaining to the important decisions in a child's life, such as medical, educational, and religious decisions affecting the child's welfare and well-being. Regardless of whether one or both of the parents are allocated decision making authority, either parent shall be authorized to make decisions on the child's behalf in emergency situations. An agreement related to the care and growth of the child may also be incorporated into the plan.
- Minimize the child's exposure to parental conflict.
- Include a process for dispute resolution, with the preference being to carry out the parenting plan, avoiding a return to court if at all possible.
- Provide that when parents are unable to agree on issues they previously designated as items they would mutually decide upon, they shall make a good-faith effort to utilize the agreed upon dispute resolution process.
- Provide that each parent be responsible for making the day to day decisions regarding the basic care of the child while the child is with that parent.
- Require the parent responsible for paying child support to report the obligor's income annually to the recipient and any other relevant agencies.
- Specify that a parent with an invalid driver's license shall provide appropriate transportation for the child.
- Include a child visitation schedule that is consistent with the child's developmental level and emotional needs, which encourages each parent to maintain a loving, stable, and nurturing relationship with the child, taking into consideration the family's social and financial circumstances.
The laws of the State of Tennessee may seem intimidating or involved at first glance, but after reviewing them and knowing what the court expects and what to include in a parenting plan, it is actually quite simple.
If you put the needs of your child ahead of everything else when creating a parenting plan, you should be able to develop a parenting plan that will successfully serve the needs of your child as he or she grows to adulthood.
The top twenty cities in Tennessee (by population, US Census Bureau, 2008) are: Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville, Chattanooga, Clarksville, Murfreesboro, Jackson, Johnson City, Franklin, Hendersonville, Bartlett, Kingsport, Cleveland, Collierville, Smyrna, Germantown, Brentwood, Columbia, La Vergne, Gallatin.