Tennessee, like most states, is trying to make shared custody of children the norm. There are two types of custody in Tennessee:

  • Physical custody provides for where the child will live and sleep. It provides for the daily and weekly needs of the child such as feeding the child, seeing that the child goes to school and has friends, clothing the child, disciplining the child, and providing for the emotional support of the child.
  • Legal custody generally determines what religion the child will learn, where the child will attend school, how any long-term medical needs of the child will be met, and any legal issues that may arise involving the child, such as if the child has special needs.

Both types of child custody can be shared by both parents. Shared custody is also referred to as joint custody. Individual custody is referred to as sole custody.

At all times, the deciding factor for determining custody rights is what is in the best interests of the child. In Tennessee, the custody arrangements must be set forth in an approved parenting plan. The parenting plan details where the child will stay each day of the year including holidays and who will be the primary residential parent. The primary residential parent is the parent the child stays with the majority of the year. Some arrangements are 50-50. In many parenting plans, the child stays with one parent during the week and the other parent on alternate weekends with adjustments. In rare cases, a child will be with just the one parent year-round.

When full custody instead of joint custody may be awarded

Full custody is another way of saying sole custody. This is different from full legal custody, which means one parent decides all the health, education, and general welfare decisions of the child/children.

Courts generally prefer sharing custody so the child gets the best of both parents’ time. There are some situations, though, where staying with one parent may be detrimental to the child’s well-being. In these cases, a parent may be denied any custody rights, or the rights may be limited (such as providing for just minimal time or requiring some type of supervision when the child is with the parent who doesn’t have full custody). These situations include a parent who:

  • Has a history of domestic abuse
  • Suffers from alcohol or substance abuse
  • Has anger issues which have been addressed in treatment (mandated or otherwise)
  • Isn’t mentally able to take care of the child
  • Isn’t physically able to take care of the child
  • Causes reasonable concerns the parent may leave the country or the state without court approval

The preferences of children 12 and older may also be considered in deciding if full custody is appropriate. Parents who do not have full custody are still required to pay child support.

At the Law Offices of Adrian H. Altshuler & Associates, our experienced child custody attorneys fight for parents and their children. We negotiate just parenting plans but also fight to prevent children from being subject to abuse, misconduct, or lack of care. To learn how to best provide for your children and their future, call us at 615-412-1121 or complete our contact form to schedule an appointment. We represent parents, spouses, and children throughout Franklin, Columbia and Brentwood, Tennessee.