Tennessee state lawmakers are considering a bill that could make it easier for fathers to get joint custody of their children after divorce. The proposed law would create a presumption for judges that it’s best for children when parents share custody.
An official with The Tennessee Fathers’ Rights Movement, which is supporting the bill, explains that traditionally family courts have granted greater custody rights to mothers. He says the bill could help “level the playing field for fathers seeking to spend more time with their children.” He argues that it will also help prevent “highly contested disputes that can last for years” and hurt the children at the center of them.
The proposed law does not mandate equal parenting time. It states that judges would have “the widest discretion to order a custody arrangement in the best interest of the child.” One of the bill’s co-sponsors says, “Shared parenting is where we should start.” However, he adds, “If the judge decides it’s in the best…interest of the child to go 100 percent one way or 100 percent in the other, the judge still has discretion to do that with the bill.”
Not everyone is in favor of the legislation. Advocates for victims of domestic violence claim that it would make it more difficult for these victims to escape their abusers. The co-founder of Tennessee Voices for Victims says, “When you have someone going for a divorce that never called police for any kind of abuse but they’re in a power and control relationship, granting joint custody to the two of them when he’s an abuser can be very dangerous.”
Each child custody decision is unique. If your case is in the hands of a judge, it’s essential not just to make the strongest case possible for yourself. However, it’s also important to know what laws the judge has to rely on when making their decision. Your family law attorney can be a valuable resource as you go through this process.