Tennessee Custody and Visitation Schedules
You can create your own custody and visitation schedule (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 schedule, you can use the Custody X Change software.
Custody X Change is software that creates custody schedules, calendars, and professional parenting plan documents.
Prior to developing a child visitation schedule in the State of Tennessee, it is important to have an understanding of the laws pertaining to child custody and visitation in the state.
These laws can be found in Tennessee Code, Title 36, Domestic Relations, Chapter 6, Custody and Visitation.
The Tennessee Code provides definitions for the terminology used by the court and details the factors the court uses when ruling on family law cases.
The courts in the State of Tennessee encourage and often require parents to submit a parenting plan to the court. A child visitation schedule is just one element of a parenting plan.
Preparing a child visitation schedule that encompasses the needs of your child while meeting the requirements of the court is the most likely manner of ensuring a successful outcome in your case.
There are two types of custody in the State of Tennessee, physical custody and legal custody. The amount of time the child spends with each parent should be based on the type of custody the parents have.
Here are some things you should know about custody in Tennessee:
- Physical custody (TC § 36-6-205.15) pertains to the actual amount of time spent with the child, where the child lives, and who is responsible for making the day to day decisions regarding the child's daily care.
- Joint physical custody means parents share physical custody of their child, with the child spending approximately thirty percent of his or her time with each parent.
- Sole physical custody means one parent has the child the majority of the time and the other parent excises "visitation rights".
- The non-custodial parent is entitled to reasonable visitation with the child.
- In cases where a parent poses a threat or danger to the child or the other parent, supervised visitation may be ordered, or visitation rights may be suspended, as a method of protecting the child.
- Legal custody involves the right of a parent to not only be informed of all relevant information regarding the child, such as educational and medical details, but also the right to make major decisions involving the child's education, medical care, religious upbringing, earnings, etc.
- Sole legal custody means only one parent has legal custody of the child.
- Joint legal custody means both parents share legal custody, which is the more common kind of legal custody in Tennessee.
An effective child visitation schedule should be written with the best interest of the child and maintaining the child's well-being as the main objectives.
Your Tennessee child visitation schedule should include (TC § 36-6-402.5):
- A residential schedule that specifies a primary residence for the child, designates in which parent's home the child shall reside in and when, and serve as a regular schedule for how the child will spend time with each parent on a frequent, ongoing basis.
- A holiday schedule which may include birthdays and special occasions, such as Mother's Day, Father's Day, and three-day weekends, so that the child may spent an equitable amount of time with each parent on holidays.
- A vacation schedule or provisions for spending vacation time so the child may spend extended time with each parent during school breaks and the parents' personal vacation times.
It is important that a child be able to have stability and security. The custody and schedule should reflect that and be adhered to.
Parents don't just have "rights" to visit their child; they also have obligations to do so. The custody and visitation schedule should be developed in a manner that optimizes the availability of each parent.
According to Chapter 36-6-404, you need to make your parenting time schedule consistent with your child's developmental level and the family's social and economic circumstances. Your schedule should also encourage each parent to maintain a loving, stable, and nurturing relationship with the child.
When making the decisions about the primary residential parent and the division of parenting time, you must always consider what is best for your child and make your schedule so it benefits your child.
When the judge decides what residential schedule is best for the child, the judge will consider the following factors (found in Chapter 36-6-404):
- Each parent's ability to instruct, inspire, and encourage the child to prepare for a life of service and to compete successfully in the society that the child faces as an adult
- The strength, nature, and stability of the child's relationship with each parent, including if one parent has taken greater responsibility for parenting responsibilities relating to the daily needs of the child
- Each parent's willingness and ability to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child
- If either parent refuses to attend a court-ordered parent education seminar (the refusal can be viewed as evidence of a parent's lack of good faith in the custody proceedings)
- The ability of each parent to provide food, clothing, medical care, education, etc. to the child
- The degree to which a parent has been the primary caregiver, which is defined as the parent who has taken greater responsibility for performing parenting responsibilities
- The love, affection, and emotional ties between each parent and the child
- The emotional needs and the developmental level of the child
- The character and physical and emotional fitness of each parent as it relates to each parent's ability to parent or the welfare of the child
- The child's interaction and relationships with siblings and significant adults, as well as the child's involvement with school, the physical surroundings, or other activities
- The importance of continuity in the child's life and the length of time the child has lived in the current, satisfactory environment
- The reasonable preference of a child when the child is twelve years or age or older
- Each parent's employment schedule
- The character and behavior of any person who resides in or frequents the home of either parent and such person's interactions with the child
- If there is evidence of physical or emotional abuse by either parent
You should also consider all of these factors as you make your custody schedule because they will help you think about what will work best for your child and will help you make a schedule that allows your child to do well.
If you focus on the best interest of your child and make a parenting time schedule that allows both parents to be involved with the child, you will have a good chance in the court accepting your schedule. This will also enable you to have a schedule in place that works for everyone involved.
The State of Tennessee has laws in effect that may enable persons other than the natural parents to be granted visitation rights to the child. If you are in an unconventional situation, you may want to research the law to learn about any applicable scenarios, such as:
- If a parent with visitation rights becomes deployed or called to duty out of the state, that parent may petition the court to have another family member excise the awarded visitation rights, while the parent is away (TC § 36-6-308).
- Step-parents may be awarded visitation rights with the child if it is in the child's best interests and the step-parent is providing or contributing to the support of the child (TC § 36-6-303).
- A grandparent (or grandparents) may be awarded visitation rights to a child if they meet certain criteria, such as having acted as the child's caregiver, if a parent is deceased, or if the disruption of an established relationship would be detrimental to the child(TC § 36-6-306).
Anytime visitation is awarded to a non-parent or guardian, you may account for the time the child spends with the person in the child visitation schedule.
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.