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Learn About Child Custody And Parenting Plans

Determining child custody agreements is one of the most difficult and emotionally involved aspects of many divorces. Montgomery County’s divorce rate is higher than the state average with 6.7 people per 1,000 divorcing in 2011 as compared to 4.3 people per 1,000 for all of Tennessee. Considering that approximately 50 percent of all divorces include minor children, child custody, visitation and parenting plans are frequently needed components to a divorce.

The world of child custody is anything but black and white. There are many nuances and different ways in which courts seek to provide an environment that is in the best interests of children. If you are facing a divorce and you have minor children, you should understand some of the basics surrounding child custody in Tennessee. The Law Office of Steven C. Girsky is ready to guide you through the challenges of legal issues involving your children.

What Is Legal Versus Physical Custody?

Two primary types of custody are awarded in a divorce. The first is legal custody. Legal custody identifies which parent will have the authority to make decisions regarding health care, education and the general well-being of the children. Physical custody determines where the children will reside and when.

Both legal and physical custody can be awarded to only one parent. This is known as sole custody. Sole physical custody is also sometimes referred to as full custody. In these situations, children live solely with one parent. The other parent may or may not have visitation rights.

The two forms of custody can be awarded to both parents. Such situations are referred to as joint custody. In such cases, the father and mother are given the right and expected to make decisions jointly for their children.

There can also be situations where one parent is awarded sole physical custody, but the two parents share joint legal custody or vice versa. If both legal and physical custody are to be awarded jointly, the situation is commonly referred to as simply joint custody or shared custody. These arrangements are most effective when both parents can work well together in the best interests of their children.

How Does The Best Interest Standard Affect Custody Orders?

According to Tennessee statutes, courts must make custody determinations in the best interest of the child. In making these decisions and adhering to this standard, judges consider several factors. Courts examine the ability of the parent to provide the child with basic necessities such as clothing, food and education; the love and emotional connection between the child and his or her parents; the stability of the family; and continuity in the child’s life. Other factors relevant to the best interest of the child include:

  • The parents’ physical and mental health
  • The home, community and school record of the child
  • Child’s preference
  • Any evidence of emotional or physical abuse of the child or another person
  • Character or behavior of others who may live in or visit the child’s home

Courts also consider how each parent has cared for the child in the past and how well that parent may cope with additional parenting responsibilities in the future.

Why Is A Strong Parenting Plan Vital?

Once custody is determined, the next step in the process is to outline the actual parenting plan. It will involve an extremely detailed schedule governing which parent the children will be with at stated times, including holidays, birthdays and vacations. It can be as granular as to identify an exchange location if necessary. A parenting plan provides structure to the lives of children and prevents disputes about the children’s whereabouts at certain times.

Tennessee courts understand the complexities surrounding minor children in a divorce and laws are developed with the best interests of children in mind. Courts are tasked with creating plans that permit both parents to participate as fully as possible in the lives of their children. If you have young children still at home and are facing divorce, you should consult an experienced family law attorney. Doing so as early as possible in the process is the best way to help provide the most stable outcome for you and your children.

Consult With An Experienced Child Custody Lawyer

Your children are among the most important aspects of your life. Make sure you have what you need to protect and care for them. Call 931-266-4689 or email the firm in Clarksville for a child custody and parenting plan consultation. With over 25 years of family law experience, The Law Office of Steven C. Girsky serves families throughout Tennessee and Kentucky.