Many Tennessee parents are divorced or may be contemplating a divorce. A serious concern for people in this situation can be child custody arrangements after legal separation is completed. If a child custody battle ends up in Tennessee family court, the judge, not the parents, will decide this issue, always keeping the best interests of the child ahead of all other issues.
The court considers any emotional ties that exists between the child and his or her parents and which parent has been the primary caregiver. Determining mental and physical health of the parents is also an important barometer when deciding child custody. Children older than 12-years-old may have a preference regarding custody and if communicated to the judge, this preference will be considered before a judgment is made.
However, younger children are not provided the opportunity to communicate a preference. If one parent has been accused of emotional or physical abuse, the court shall consider all evidence supporting the allegation and may refer issues related to the case to a juvenile court for further proceeding. The court may determine initial custody or modify an existing custody order if the custodial parent is convicted of or found responsible for the wrongful death of the other parent.
After awarding the child custody to one parent, the court may allow visitation rights to the other parent, to maintain the parent-child relationship. However, this decision may be subject to approval from the custodial parent and may be later revoked if the court finds visitation rights are not in the best interests of the child. If the court finds the non-custodial parent guilty of abusing the child, it may order visitation to be supervised or visitation may be prohibited.
Source: Tennessee Statutes, “Chapter 6 – Child Custody and Visitation,” Accessed on Apr. 17, 2015