Some of the main questions we get asked by parents going through a divorce in Tennessee revolve around child custody and visitation rights. In this post, we will explain how visitation rights are determined during divorce proceedings and what you need to know about child custody in Tennessee.
What is a Permanent Parenting Plan in Tennessee?
In Tennessee, parents going through a divorce are required to complete a permanent parenting plan. This document thoroughly details how the parties will divide parenting responsibilities for the best interest of the child, including the child’s primary residence, division of parenting time, which party will have ultimate authority when it comes to making decisions on behalf of the child, and child support.
It is this document that determines child custody, based on the residential schedule that is decided upon. This residential schedule designates a primary residential parent, who is the parent with which the child will primarily reside. It also outlines where the child will live on which days, and where they will spend holidays, vacations, and birthdays.
Tennessee has used the permanent parenting plan to determine parental rights including custody since 2001. Instead of using the previous legal terms with which you are probably familiar, such as sole custody, full custody, or joint custody, the plan simply designates a primary residential parent and an alternative residential parent.
What is a Primary Residential Parent?
You may be wondering what, exactly, it means to be the primary residential parent and what it means to be an alternative residential parent. The primary residential parent is the parent with which the child will live with more than 50 percent of the time, while the alternative residential parent is the other party. Typically, the primary residential parent has custody of the child for the majority of the time, with the exception of alternating weekends, special events, and holidays. However, this is not always the case.
When deciding on the primary residential parent, the court will consider a variety of factors, including the relationship between the parent and child, which parent has provided the most caregiving in the past, the work schedules of each parent, and how to best ensure that the child will continue to reside in a stable and nurturing environment.
If a child is over the age of 12 the court will take their preference for residence into consideration, and, in some instances, the court will choose to hear testimony from children under the age of 12 regarding their residential preference.
What Rights do the Primary Residential Parent and Alternative Residential Parent Have?
Although it may sound like the primary residential parent has the ultimate authority for making decisions on behalf of your child or children, this is not the case. Typically the parent that the child is currently residing with has authority over day-to-day decisions. When it comes to bigger life decisions such as education or health care, a final decision-making authority can be shared by both parents or given to one of the parents.
Have Questions about Child Custody in Tennessee?
If you are going through a divorce in Tennessee and have questions about child custody, Ken Phillips Law is here to help. We are dedicated to helping all parties involved come to an amicable solution that will work for you and your family.