Tennessee requires parents to share custody in a way that serves the child’s best interest. The state does not favor parents of either gender when determining custody.
When parents can agree on an arrangement, they can submit their custody agreement to the court for approval. Otherwise, the judge will decide on an arrangement that meets the child’s needs.
The custody process
When one parent files for divorce, the court will schedule both parties to attend a mandatory parenting class where they will develop a parenting plan together. This document must include information about how parents will share decision-making on the child’s behalf, residential and parenting time, and transportation to and from each parent’s home. The court will decide whether the plan adheres to state child custody guidelines.
Sometimes, parents cannot agree even after taking the parenting class. In this case, the court will hold a custody hearing.
Factors in the best interest standard
Tennessee courts will consider the following factors in custody cases:
- The physical and mental health of the child and both parents
- The child’s wishes if he or she can express a preference to the court
- Whether either parent has a history of substance abuse, neglect or domestic violence
- The testimony of third parties who can attest to the child’s best interests
- The stability of the child’s current home environment and the ability of each parent to foster stability and provide for the child’s needs
Families must work together to come to an agreeable custody plan. Tennessee only allows modification of a custody order in certain circumstances.