Under Tennessee law, a parent can seek two types of modifications to parenting plans: a change in the residential parenting schedule and a change in child custody. A change of custody is usually difficult to obtain. But if a parent can establish that there has been such a material change in parental circumstances, then he or she may be able to convince a court to at least modify the parenting schedule.
Because most parents engage in mediation during divorce proceedings and before going to court, they often agree on a parenting plan that protects their own interests as parents and the best interests of their child. Courts do not usually consider whether both parents are in agreement unless a change in a parenting schedule could hurt a child’s best interests. If parents are not in agreement, then the matter becomes complicated and goes to trial before a final order is issued by the court. The resulting amended parenting plan must mention the material change that led to the modification, details of the new parenting schedule and that the amended plan is in the child’s best interests.
Many attorneys believe the threshold for material change – or significant change in circumstances – for seeking modifications to parenting schedules is low. A parent may be able to obtain a modification by showing that the existing arrangement is unworkable.
Many modification cases do not go to trial, but a significant number of cases are decided in court. In these cases, establishing material change is sometimes difficult and requires an in-depth knowledge of family laws in Tennessee. Most parents will not be aware of the previous case law, so retaining an attorney who can establish material change while protecting their own and their children’s best interests is a wise course of action.
Source: Tennessee Bar Association, “Modification of Permanent Parenting Plans in Tennessee,” Marlene Moses, Accessed on Dec. 15, 2014