Tennessee has the best of a lot of things — Elvis, country music, college football, the Great Smoky Mountains, Jack Daniels, Moon Pies, and progressive child custody laws.

During a divorce, one of the most agonizing decisions to be made is what to do about the children. When it comes to determining child custody in Tennessee, Moms don’t necessarily win every time. Instead, Tennessee has very progressive child custody laws that take a variety of factors into account — all of which result in determining what’s best for the child, every time.

Under section 36-6-412 of the Tennessee Code, the gender of a parent should neither help nor hamper a parent in seeking primary custody of his or her children. Therefore, mothers and fathers are theoretically on the same footing. While mothers still are named the primary residential parent more often, Tennessee fathers’ custody rights have greatly improved. Fathers should not be discouraged because courts examine the following factors in reaching custody determinations:

  • Each parent’s ability to instruct, inspire, and encourage the child
  • The relative strength, nature, and stability of the child’s relationship with each parent
  • The willingness of each parent to encourage a relationship between the child and the other parent
  • The ability of each parent to provide for the child
  • The degree to which a parent has been the primary caregiver in the past
  • The emotional needs and developmental level of the child
  • The emotional fitness of each parent
  • Any evidence of abuse by a parent
  • The reasonable preference of the child (if the child is 12 years of age or older)
  • Any other factors considered relevant by the court

In Tennessee, thanks to careful drafting by the legislature, determinations about child custody are made carefully and with much deliberation. The result is that the best interests of the child win out time and time again.