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Child Custody

No aspect of family dissolution is more daunting or heart wrenching than the issues regarding child custody. How much time will you have with your child after the divorce? Who will have authority to make major decisions for your child? Where will your child live? Successful resolution of such matters is paramount to the future happiness and well being of you and your child(ren). The Nashville child custody attorneys at Cole Law Group recognize the impact that the determination of child custody will have on your family, and we will treat your case from beginning to end with the compassion and diligent representation that it so justly deserves.

How Do I Get Custody of My Child?

A desire to "win sole custody" over the other parent is not the best objective on which to base the strategy of your case. Family courts in the Nashville area adhere to the belief that it is essential for a child to have an ongoing relationship with both parents, that both parents should exercise parenting time with the child(ren), and that both parents should be involved in parenting decisions. Even the 14th Amendment of the Constitution affords each party a fundamental right to have access to, care for, and educate his or her child(ren). This is also true if the parents are unwed, if paternity has just recently been established, or if a child has been legally adopted. An arrangement in which each party has a fundamental right to have access to, care for, and educate his or her child(ren) is currently referred to as "shared parenting" or "joint custody."

A sole custody arrangement or termination of parental rights will only be granted under extenuating circumstances. A parent with sole physical custody is typically referred to as the custodial parent. The noncustodial parent may have visitation rights agreed upon by the parties or determined by the court. Sometimes, visitation may be supervised if the parent has a history of problems such as violence or substance abuse.

Primary Residential Parent

Be aware that the term "shared parenting" does not mean equal time with your child(ren). Rather, "shared parenting" refers to equal participation of both parties in the ongoing upbringing of the child(ren). The parent with whom the child(ren) will live more than 50% of the time is referred to as the "primary residential parent". The "alternative parent" will likely have the child(ren) in residence on weekends or alternate weekends, holidays, and special events. Division of time between parents is determined by a court ordered permanent parenting plan.

The Permanent Parenting Plan

Pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-6-404, any final decree for divorce involving a minor child shall incorporate a permanent parenting plan, a written outline that will: (1) establish a primary residential parent; (2) allocate authority to one or both parents to make decisions regarding education, health care, and religious upbringing; (3) provide that either parent may make day to day decisions for the child while the child is residing with that parent; (4) minimize parental conflict; (5) provide for a child's changing needs; and (6) allocate financial support for the child. Custody can be decided at any point between parties, or a court can award temporary custody while a parenting plan is pending.

Parents do have the opportunity to amicably agree to a parenting plan. Such mutual cooperation is encouraged by our Cole Law Group child custody attorneys because it eliminates the need for judicial intervention and alleviates the stress and expense of a custody trial. However, if the parties are unable to resolve parenting issues, the court will more than likely require them to attend mediation in order to reach an agreement. If mediation fails, and the parties cannot reach agreement on a permanent parenting plan on or before forty five days before trial, each party must file a proposed parenting plan which includes a verified statement of income, a verified statement of good faith, and a verified statement that the plan is in the best interest of the child. At trial the court will then adjudicate a permanent parenting plan. The court considers all relevant factors in making a custody determination as spelled out in Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-6-106:

Factors That Affect Court Ordered Custody
  • The location of the parents' residences and the child's need for stability
  • The strength, nature, and stability of the child's relationship with each parent
  • Which parent has consistently performed the majority of parenting responsibilities relating to the daily needs of the child
  • Each parent's past and potential for future performance of parenting responsibilities
  • The willingness and ability of each of the parents to encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and and the other parent
  • The likelihood of each parent to honor and facilitate court ordered parenting arrangements and rights. The court will also consider a history of refusal by either parent to allow visitation in violation of a court order.
  • Refusal by either parent to attend a court ordered parent education seminar
  • The disposition of each parent to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, education and other necessary care
  • The degree to which a parent has been the primary caregiver, defined as the parent who has taken the greater responsibility for performing parental responsibilities
  • The love, affection, and emotional ties existing between each parent and the child
  • The emotional needs and developmental level of the child
  • The moral, physical, mental and emotional fitness of each parent as it relates to their ability to parent the child
  • The child's interaction and interrelationships with siblings, other relatives and step relatives, and mentors, as well as the child's involvement with the child's physical surroundings, school, or other significant activities;
  • The importance of continuity in the child's life and the length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment;
  • Evidence of physical or emotional abuse to the child, to the other parent or to any other person.
  • The character and behavior of any other person who resides in or frequents the home of a parent and such person's interactions with the child
  • The reasonable preference of the child if twelve (12) years of age or older. The court may hear the preference of a younger child upon request. The preference of older children should normally be given greater weight than those of younger children
  • Each parent's employment schedule
  • Any other factors deemed relevant by the court.
The Road to a Successful Resolution

A stable and happy environment for every child is the top priority for our Nashville child custody lawyers. By working together, we can identify the best arrangement for you and your child(ren), plan a strategy for achieving your goals, and take decisive action. At Cole Law Group our child custody attorneys are also skilled and determined litigators who are not afraid to assert your side and defend your rights in negotiations or in a court of law.

Your first step is choosing the right attorney. Call (615) 490-6020 now to schedule a consultation at our Brentwood office.

A sole custody arrangement or termination of parental rights would only be granted under extenuating circumstances. A parent with sole physical custody is typically referred to as the custodial parent. The noncustodial parent may have visitation rights agreed upon by the parties or determined by the court. Sometimes, visitation may be supervised if the parent has a history of problems such as violence or substance abuse. The supervising individual can be court appointed or chosen by the parties and submitted to the court.

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