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For a devoted parent, the most difficult part of a divorce or breakup is often resolving the issue of child custody.
At Welty Law Office, we understand exactly how stressful child custody disputes can be. We make sure that you have the information, support, and advocacy you need to navigate the legal process and get the result your children need. As a child advocacy-centered practice, we are committed to doing what is best for you, and for your children. That includes helping you know what to expect from the legal process, and standing with you every step of the way.
In Tennessee, courts base custody decisions on what is in “the best interest of the child.” Tennessee Code Annotated Section 36-6-106 contains a list of factors that courts must consider in parenting disputes, whether in a divorce or between parents who have never married..
Tennessee courts no longer use terms like “custodial parent” and “non-custodial parent.” The parents are referred to as the Primary Residential Parent (PRP) and Alternative Residential Parent (ARP). As the names suggest, the PRP is the parent with whom the child lives most of the time. Often, the PRP is the parent who was the primary caretaker while the parents were together or who the court has found is best to serve in that role after reviewing the custody factors.
Because it is usually in a child’s best interest to have a strong relationship with both parents, courts generally try to ensure that the ARP also has as much time as possible with the child. For those with equal parenting time, the Tennessee legislature recently enacted a statute that allows for parties to share in the designation and be Joint Primary Residential Parents. When that is chosen, it is important to have a Permanent Parenting Plan that outlines whose school district the child(ren) will attend school from.
Parents in Tennessee are required to try to negotiate a permanent parenting plan before taking a custody dispute before a judge. They must attend a parenting class and go through mediation to try to reach agreement. If they are able to agree on custody, they submit their proposed permanent parenting plan to the judge for approval.
If parents cannot resolve their disagreement on custody, the judge will make a custody determination after a trial. Forty-five days before trial, each parent must submit their own proposed permanent parenting plan to the court for review. At trial, the judge may decide to implement one of the two proposed plans, or may come up with a different plan.
It is usually best for parents to create their own plan for spending time with their child. As a parent, you know your child’s needs and your family’s schedules better than any judge could. With the help of your lawyers or a mediator, you and your child’s other parent can create a plan designed for your unique family.
There are many advantages to negotiating your own parenting plan. You are likely to be more satisfied with a plan into which you had input, and more likely to abide by it. That means fewer trips back to court to argue about child custody. In addition, negotiating a resolution is usually less expensive than going to trial—sometimes much less expensive.
But the best reason to negotiate a permanent parenting plan is the reason you need one in the first place: your child. It causes stress for children when their parents fight, and a long, contentious court battle only hurts children. We find that children thrive when their parents work together to do what’s best for them, which is better for everyone in the long run.
While a negotiated permanent parenting plan is ideal, it’s only possible if both parents are willing to put their children’s needs first and do what is best for them. If your spouse or co-parent cannot or will not prioritize your child’s needs, a trial may be necessary.
Custody disputes are hard on both parents and children. You are trying to protect your children while navigating a stressful situation yourself. You don’t have to do it alone.
Attorney Rachel Welty is not only a family law attorney; she’s also a single mother. She understands the challenges of child custody cases on both a personal and professional level. That is why Welty Law Office is committed to centering child advocacy in their practice. You put your children first, and so do we, working to make sure that they have the care they need and that they are safe and protected from conflict.
Our team is trained in mediation and alternative dispute resolution, and we work to help you resolve your custody issues as peacefully and respectfully as possible so that you can co-parent effectively moving forward. We are skilled negotiators and creative problem solvers, but we are also experienced litigators who are comfortable taking custody disputes to trial if necessary for the sake of our clients and their children.
We invite you to contact Welty Law Office to schedule a consultation to discuss your Tennessee custody matter.