Frequently Asked Questions—Child Custody

Here are some answers to the most commonly asked questions about Tennessee child custody laws.

How much time you will have with your child after a divorce is perhaps the biggest questions the entire process presents. The issue of child custody is filled with other important questions, some with complicated answers. Below you will find some of the most frequently asked questions regarding child custody in Tennessee:

Who determines child custody?

You and your spouse may be able to reach an agreement on child custody and, if you can do this, you and your spouse will determine the child custody arrangement. Unfortunately, child custody is one of the most hotly contested issues in family and it can be difficult for divorcing couples to come to a mutually acceptable agreement.

If you and your spouse cannot agree on child custody, the court will determine custodial arrangements based on the best interest of the child standard. The following factors will be weighed in the court’s decision making process:

    • The child’s relationship with each parent;
    • The parent who has served as primary caregiver to meet the child’s daily needs;
    • Ability to provide an environment that supports the child’s emotional and developmental needs;
    • The physical and mental health of each parent; and
    • Other factors the court deems relevant.

What is the permanent parenting plan?

The permanent parenting plan is a detailed outline of parenting responsibilities after divorce. It will allocate different rights and responsibilities to each parent, including:

  • Parenting time;
  • Final decision-making authority relating to the care of the child;
  • Where the child will live; and
  • Who will be child support and how much.

The residential schedule in the parenting plan will specifically lay out when the child will be in each parent’s physical custody. This includes specifying what parent will have custody of the child on holidays, vacations, and other notable occasions.

Who is the primary residential parent?

The primary residential parent is considered to be the parent that the child lives with more than 50 percent of the time. However, a residential parent will be determined even when the parents have an even 50-50 split of parenting time. The other parent is referred to as the alternative residential parent and will, more often than not, have less parenting time than the primary residential parent. Additionally, the alternative residential parent will usually have to pay child support to the primary residential parent.

Can custody arrangements be modified?

Yes, child custody arrangements can be modified. If there has been a material and substantial change in circumstances that would effect the best interest of the child, then the court will consider granting a child custody modification.

Can my spouse refuse visitation rights if I fall behind on child support payments?

No, your spouse cannot refuse you to exercise your rights to parenting time with your child even if you have fallen behind on your child support payment obligations. Child support and visitation are two separate issues. A parent who withholds parenting because child support payments have not been made can be held in contempt of court.

These questions merely scratch the surface of the big and complicated questions that come up in child custody. The knowledgeable divorce attorneys at Kidwell, South, Beasley & Haley will provide all of the answers to the child custody questions you may have and will be there by your side through the entire process of determining child custody. Contact Kidwell, South, Beasley & Haley today online, or call 615-893-1331 to schedule a free consultation.