It’s one of the biggest concerns for any divorcing parent — What will happen to the children? Will you share custody? What are the rules for visitation? What about child support? These are important questions that need legal answers. What you need is a well-versed divorce attorney to help you make the right decisions in the best interest of your child. The Nashville child custody lawyers at Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC have the experience needed to handle the rights of parents and children throughout Middle Tennessee. We understand the sensitive nature of child custody cases and keep both the child’s interests and the parents’ interests in mind. We will make sure the outcome is beneficial for all parties involved.
Types of Child Custody in Tennessee–Child Custody Laws
According to Tennessee child custody laws, the family court has the authority to award “care, custody, and control” of children to either or both of the parents. It all depends on the best interest of the child. If the court has determined that a parent had willfully abandoned his or her child for at least 18 months, then the parents’ involvement will be limited.
There are two types of child custody agreements — physical and legal.
Physical custody refers to the amount of time a parent is permitted to be with the child.
Legal custody refers to the decision-making rights the parent has in regards to the child’s welfare, such as health and education.
In addition, the custody can further be paired down to sole, primary, or joint custody.
Sole custody means one parent is the only caregiver of the child without input from the other parent.
Primary custody means one parent is the primary decision-maker of the child. Although the noncustodial parent has a say in how the child is cared for, the custodial parent makes the decisions.
Joint custody is when both parents share custody of the child. All decisions are made by both parents.
Factors Determining Child Custody
In Tennessee, custody and visitation rights are determined by specific factors including:
How the parent has nurtured the child since his/her birth;
The parents’ current economic situation and his/her future financial prospects;
The child’s ability to adjust to his/her school, community, and home;
Each parent’s parenting skills and willingness to encourage and foster a continuing relationship between the child and the other parent;
The behavior and personality of each parent and;
The preference of the child if the child is at least 12 years old.
The Rights of Noncustodial Parents
With the best interests of the child in mind, noncustodial parents in Tennessee have certain rights when it comes to their children:
They are allowed unimpeded telephone calls at least twice a week;
Access to mail, without the other parent’s interference (i.e. unopened, uncensored);
The right to receive notice of important information as soon as possible, but within 24 hours of the medical emergency;
The right to access records and correspondence from the child’s school;
The right to receive medical records;
The right to be free of any derogatory remarks about family members in the presence of the child;
The right to be given at least 48 hours notice of any extra-curricular activities;
The right to receive an itinerary when the other parent leaves the state with the child for more than two days; and
The right of access to and participation in the child’s education and related activities.
How To Petition for Child Custody in Tennessee
To petition for child custody in Tennessee, the courts will first ask if the parents had been married or not. When the parents were once married, the first step to child custody is for one parent to file for divorce. Then, each parent will attend a parenting class and come up with a parenting plan. From there, the courts will review the parenting plans, and approve the plan (or devise a new plan) which best suits the needs of the child.
If the parents were unmarried, there must be a petition to establish parentage, followed by an agreement of custody and child support. If no agreement is reached, the court will decide in the child’s best interest.
How Our Nashville Child Custody Lawyers Can Help
Even if the parents can agree on a child custody plan, it’s still up to the judge to rule that the settlement is in the best interests of the child. Except in unusual circumstances, an agreement between the parents that avoids contentious litigation is generally considered to be in the child’s interests.
Our Nashville child custody lawyers understand how difficult this situation can be. We will do whatever possible to protect your relationship with your children. If you are going through a divorce or you need help with your child custody arrangement in Nashville, Springfield, or in Middle Tennessee, contact the child custody attorneys at Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC today for more information.