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Tennessee gets D grade for failure to support shared parenting

Until the last two decades or so, most courts in Tennessee and the rest of the country tended to award custody of a couple's children to the mother based on the idea that mothers not only naturally knew what was best for young children but also could provide it more readily than fathers. Research, however, has show that shared parenting after divorce or separation actually provides more emotional support to children because it allows them to maintain strong ties with both parents.

According to a recent report, Tennessee has failed to promote shared parenting as many child advocates had wanted. The National Parents Organization's 2014 Shared Parenting Report Card only gave Tennessee -- and 22 other states -- a D grade when it came to legislatively mandating shared parenting as one option to be considered by the courts when parents divorce. No state received an A grade. The NPO reports that some states have actively discouraged shared parenting, which deprives children of quality time with both parents.

As the report notes, Tennessee was graded badly because shared child custody is not truly embraced as an option. Shared parenting is only promoted when the child's parents agree to joint custody.The state's statutes do not allow for shared parenting in either temporary or final orders for child custody, and the state's statutes do not contain language that explicitly encourage shared parenting as an option.

Tennessee was commended, however, for having in place statutes that consider the so-called friendly parent factor in determining what is in a child's best interests. Recent changes in state laws have also established the right of a noncustodial parent to see the person's child's educational and medical records. Regular and unhindered contact between parent and the child over the phone and by email was also favorably viewed by the NPO.

Source: The Tennessean, "Tennessee gets'D' for child custody laws," Todd Bames, Nov. 16, 2014

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