Although divorce is complicated under any circumstances, it is much more difficult for couples with children. Separating when there are children involved is often more complex, and of course, the best interests of the children involved are the most important aspect of the separation. Children’s lives are significantly affected by divorce, and it needs to be ensured that they will be cared for and their basic needs are met following the divorce. This is why in Tennessee, a parenting plan is needed when couples with children divorce.
What is a Parenting Plan?
A parenting plan is an arrangement between divorcing parents that outlines the responsibilities each has regarding their children. However, it is possible for unmarried parents to also implement a parenting plan. There are temporary parenting plans and permanent parenting plans, although even a permanent parenting plan can be modified later on if there is a material change in circumstances.
The state of Tennessee recognizes that children do best when they have relationships with both of their parents, and parenting plans are intended to encourage separated parents to work together, when possible, to provide the best care for their children. A parenting plan should help protect a child from parental conflict and have a process for dispute resolution. Although children’s needs will change over time, parenting plans should be created in a way that will help prevent the need for modifications in the future.
What Responsibilities are Determined in a Parenting Plan?
A parenting plan can dictate which parent has which parental responsibilities, including the following.
Primary Residential Parent
A parenting plan needs to determine one parent who will be the primary residential parent. The primary residential parent is the parent the child lived with more than 50% of the time. However, the non-residential parent may still make day-to-day decisions for their children while they are residing with them.
When deciding which parent will serve as the primary residential parent, the court considers many factors, including the following:
- If one parent has taken greater responsibility caring for the child’s daily needs.
- The existing relationship between each parent and the child.
- The emotional needs of the child.
- Each parent’s work schedule
- One parent’s refusal to attend a court-ordered parent education seminar.
- Each parent’s willingness to encourage a relationship between their child and the other parent.
- Other people who may reside in or frequent the home of one of the parents and their relationship with the child.
- The preference of a child over the age of 12. The court may also consider the preference of a child under the age of 12, although a younger child’s preference will be less weighted.
While a parenting plan must name one primary residential parent, it can also dictate when children may reside with the non-primary residential parent. Parents can determine how much residential time children spend with each parent and when. This should also consider specific days they spend with a certain parent, such as holidays and birthdays. Under certain circumstances, such as in the case of abuse, a parent’s residential time with their child may be restricted.
A parenting plan may give one or both parents authority to make decisions regarding their children. This includes decisions related to their education, healthcare, religion, and extracurricular activities. Parenting plans may also state that should an emergency occur, either parent is able to make decisions regarding the child’s health or safety.
Contact the Family Law Attorneys at MHPS for Assistance
You want to ensure that your child receives the care, love, and support they need, and divorce shouldn’t get in the way of this. At MHPS, we know how stressful a divorce can be for all members of the family and can help you through various aspects of dissolving a marriage.
Contact our family law attorneys today to learn more.