Tennessee Parenting Plans and Custody Agreements

A parenting plan (sometimes called a custody agreement) specifies how parents will share in the responsibilities of parenting.

Divorcing parents must each submit a proposed plan. This is optional in other types of custody cases (unless the judge orders it), but recommended so the judge understands your wishes when deciding the details of your court-ordered plan.

If parents agree on a parenting plan, they can submit one together and ask the judge to make it a temporary or final custody order (called the permanent parenting plan for divorcing parents). To reach an agreement, parents may negotiate on their own, with lawyers or through an alternative dispute resolution method like mediation.

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Parenting plan templates

In divorce and separation cases, parents must use Tennessee's Permanent Parenting Plan as their template. No other format is acceptable, but you could add popular parenting provisions to your plan with the Custody X Change app.

Unmarried parents can use the Permanent Parenting Plan template or an alternate format, such as the Custody X Change parenting plan.

Required information

The terms required in your plan depend on your case. The judge could reject your plan if it's incomplete.

Married parents must cover every topic in the Permanent Parenting Plan. Unmarried parents have more leeway and only need to address residential and legal custody, though additional details can help prevent conflict.

Residential custody

Residential custody determines where the child lives. You must name one parent the primary residential parent (PRP). The other will be the alternative residential parent (ARP). These designations influence where the child goes to school and who can collect child support on the child's behalf.

You must also include a written parenting time schedule that addresses who the child will be with day to day and during holidays, vacations and other school-free days. You can add a visual custody calendar for easier comprehension.

If you have multiple children, they could each have a different schedule based on their age or other factors.

Legal custody

Legal custody allows parents to make decisions for their child. Your plan must include who can make major decisions (just one parent or both) in the following categories:

  • Education
  • Non-emergency health care
  • Religious upbringing
  • Extracurriculars

You can add any topics that apply to your situation. The parenting plan should include a clause stating that each parent can handle day-to-day decisions when the child is with them.

Suggested content

You should make your plan as thorough as possible to avoid trouble down the road.

The Permanent Parenting Plan, on page 7, gives parents certain rights when they're apart from their child. (Courts can revoke some or all if necessary.) If you're using a different template, you retain these rights even if they're not explicitly written in your plan.

In addition, lawyers in Tennessee recommend all parents include the following provisions in their plan.


State how parents may contact one another (phone, email, etc.). Attorneys suggest using text-based methods when discussing custody to keep a record for the court. You should also specify how and when the child can speak to the other parent (e.g., Is video calling allowed? When is it too late to call?)


Specify that the receiving parent will pick up the kids. The parent who already has the children may be distracted or want more time, so exchanges are more likely to happen on time when the receiving parent does the transporting. (This may not apply to families who require supervised exchanges or supervised parenting time.)

Missed visits

Detail how you and the other parent will proceed if one of you is unavailable for a scheduled visit. Set rules for giving advance notice and for making up visits.

Maintaining the child's extracurricular schedule

To ensure your child doesn't miss any events, stipulate that each parent must make an effort to take the child to their normal extracurricular activities.

Right of first refusal

What happens when one parent needs someone to look after the child for a significant amount of time? Stipulate whether they must ask the other parent to watch the child first.

New relationships

Each parent may have new partners involved in their life. State whether the other parent should meet the partner before the child and whether the partner is allowed to make decisions for the child (e.g., what they eat).

Making sure you don't overlook anything

While the state's parenting plan template covers a lot of important information, it doesn't know your family's circumstances. To ensure your child's needs are fully addressed, make sure to add custom provisions or build your own plan.

Custody X Change enables you to do both. In the app, you can choose from over 140 provisions (as well as enter your own) to create a document that you can attach to the Tennessee template or stands alone.

In the end, you'll be glad you made a thorough plan that will work for you and your child for years to come.

More guidance

For more guidance as you create your parenting plan, see these resources:

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