Money and children are two big areas couples have to work through when pursuing dissolution of their marriage. In both areas, it is critical to have strong legal representation to have the best opportunity to achieve a favorable outcome. Parents need to realize, though, that legal advocacy differs for these two areas.
When it comes to financial matters, the goal of legal advocacy is to ensure the rights and interests of a spouse are protected and represented. With child custody proceedings, however, it is not so much the interests of the parent that matter, but rather the interests of the children involved. This is because the primary factor courts consider in child custody cases is the best interests of the child.
As in other states, Tennessee law requires judges to consider all relevant factors when making child custody determinations and identifies various specific factors courts should look at. These include:
- The child’s history and relationship or emotional connection with each parent;
- The moral, physical, mental and emotional fitness of each parent with respect to ability to care for the child;
- Each parents’ employment schedule;
- Each parents’ past and potential for future performance of parental responsibilities, including willingness to cooperate in supporting the child’s ongoing relationship with the other parent;
- The ability of each parent to provide food, medical care, clothing, and education
In considering these factors and making custody decisions, Tennessee courts are required to issue a decision which allows both parents the “maximum participation possible” in the child’s life. Judges do have wide discretion in making these decisions, but not absolute discretion. In our next post, we’ll continue looking at this topic and the role an experienced attorney can play in child custody proceedings.