If you’re working with your co-parent towards a custody agreement or if the two of you can’t reach an agreement and the matter is going to a judge to decide, you’ll likely hear a lot of talk about what’s in the “best interests” of your children. Family courts throughout the country, including those here in Tennessee, use this as a determining factor in deciding custody cases.
With that in mind, if you’re seeking sole custody or even perhaps a 50-50 shared custody arrangement, you’ll need to show the court that:
- You and your children have a strong relationship
- You can provide your children with a loving, stable home
- You can meet your children’s physical and emotional needs
- You are healthy physically and mentally
- You will support their continued relationship with your co-parent
Judges will sometimes talk to the children themselves if they are old and/or mature enough to find out what kind of arrangement they’d prefer. They don’t necessarily make their custody decisions based on a child’s wishes, however. Again, they’re looking out for their best interests.
If your co-parent is given sole custody of your children or if the two of you agree that this is the best arrangement, you still have a number of rights as a noncustodial parent. In Tennessee, those rights include:
- Regular communication via phone, email and other methods that the custodial parent can’t impede or intercept
- The right to receive and access medical and health records as well as the right to be notified of important health-related and extracurricular events.
- The right to receive an itinerary if your co-parent takes a child out of the state for longer than two days.
The more you understand how the courts make custody decisions and your rights as a parent, the better able you are to seek the custody arrangement you believe is best for your children and to enforce your rights under the agreement that is ordered or approved by the court. Your attorney can answer any questions you have and help you to do what’s best for your children.