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The various forms of child custody -- Part I

As with divorces everywhere, minor children in Tennessee are usually the ones who experience the strongest sense of anxiety about the future. Their parents may be eager to move on with their lives, but children have no real idea what to expect in the coming weeks, months and years. Fortunately, courts almost always look to make decisions about child custody and child support with the best interests of the child in mind. They typically award custody to one parent and order the other to pay support.

Most parents enter divorce with a general idea of what child custody is, but not everyone knows about the different types of custody. Physical, joint, sole and legal custody are terms they may become familiar with during divorce proceedings.

Physical custody is most common, with one parent establishing a new home in which the parent lives with the child. In many cases, joint custody is awarded when a child's parents will live in close physical proximity to one other after their divorce. If the spouses live farther apart, say another city or another state, then one parent is usually awarded physical custody. Judges believe there is less strain on children in such cases.

A Tennessee court can also award sole custody to a parent. In these cases, the other parent has only limited visitation rights, sometimes with strictly maintained schedules. An example would be a mother who has sole custody, with the father visiting the child at regular intervals, usually on weekends.

A parent with legal custody of the person's child has the right to make all decisions about the child's life, including healthcare, education and religious affiliation. Because this responsibility is considered to be so important, a court will weigh every factor it deems important when making its decision.

Source: FindLaw, "The Various Types of Child Custody," Accessed on July 7, 2015

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