We at The Cassell Firm know there’s nothing more precious than a parent’s relationship with their child. During a divorce or separation, one of the most important things for our clients to think about is how to keep their relationship with their children stable, fair, and safe. 

The process of securing custody and understanding laws around visitation and child support can be overwhelming, so we’ve compiled a list of resources to help fathers in Tennessee prepare for the legal challenges of parenthood.

Quick Tips/Concepts About Child Custody in Tennessee

Tennessee custody laws take into account a number of things when making decisions about how families will proceed with childcare and child placement. Here are some key concepts to learn more about or keep in mind:

  • “Physical” custody vs. “Legal” custody: In Tennessee, physical custody includes the child’s daily living arrangements, while legal custody refers to decisions about the child’s education, medical care, and general welfare.
  • In Tennessee, a child over the age of 12 can decide which parent with whom they’d like to live.
  • In Tennessee, all divorcing parents must write and submit a parenting plan.
  • Child custody decisions cannot be included in a divorce decree in Tennessee.
  • In Tennessee, While you and your spouse have the opportunity to decide together on a custody agreement, if you can’t agree on a fair situation the court will decide for you.
  • In Tennessee, visitation is known as parenting time.

What Happens if Dad Changes His Mind?

Once custody arrangements have been made, there are still opportunities to change your custody plans to have more access to your children. 

To make a modification to your custody agreement, you’ll need to request a modification from the Tennessee court system. As part of processing your request, you’ll have to meet with a family lawyer and a judge. You’ll likely get asked questions like:

  • Are you just adjusting parenting time or are you seeking a change in primary custody?
  • Should you seek mediation before formalizing your request?
  • What circumstances have changed that influence your desire for a modification?
  • How would your proposed modification change child support arrangements?
  • How is the child’s current wellbeing? How would the modification influence this?

You’ll want to be sure you can answer these questions in ways that affirm your commitment to your child as well as your own stability and desire to better support your relationship. While custody modifications can indeed be granted, consider that mediation is also an option, and reaching out to your child’s other parent might be more expedient and less legally complicated than seeking a formal modification.

Visitation Rights and Building a Relationship

In Tennessee, visitation rights are considered “parenting time,” and they offer a noncustodial parent the opportunity to spend time with their child. Tennessee state law has a series of relationship considerations, including grandparents and stepparents, that help formalize what can be expected for visitation. Generally speaking, Tennessee believes shared custody is usually in the best interest of the child, and shared custody includes consistent visitation. However, a noncustodial parent can apply for visitation rights.

If you were not married to your child’s other parent, you may need to petition for visitation rights because there may not be a legal precedent of shared custody over your child (which is usually cultivated through marriage and subsequent divorce). 

Getting Custody as a Dad

The state of Tennessee does not express preference for any gender when considering custody of children. A father is as likely to get full custody or shared custody as a mother, provided that the father is financially secure and emotionally fit to parent. If you have never formalized custody arrangements and have never been married to your child’s other parent, you should have no trouble working with the legal system to formalize your connection to your child simply on the basis of your gender.

Understanding Child Support

The state of Tennessee provides a website with calculators and information you can use to understand how much child support you may be required to contribute. Child support is a complex calculation based on income over time, and you will want to work directly with a child support lawyer to better understand your required financial contributions.

Find a Lawyer for Child Custody 

It can be overwhelming to navigate custody arrangements as a father. However, know that in Tennessee, the law believes that you belong in your child’s life as long as you’re fit to be a parent. Having no preference for gender amongst parents and having a preference for shared custody means the likelihood that you will have a positive child custody experience in the state is high.

Ensuring you know the terminology involved and the requirements necessary for protecting your relationship with your child will be the most important parts of navigating the process; to speak with a lawyer about child custody information, reach out to our team at The Cassell Firm to get started.