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Child Custody Attorney in Franklin, Tennessee

Sorting out child custody arrangements can be a painful and emotional undertaking for families. Enlisting the help of a family law attorney can help facilitate the process.

If you need a skilled family law attorney, call us at Middle Tennessee Family Law, serving Franklin, Tennessee as well as areas throughout Middle Tennessee, including Murfreesboro and Nashville. Our family law attorney Tiffany Johns brings her extensive litigation experience to every case. We know that every family is different, and we are dedicated to easing families through the transition of divorce. 

If you are considering divorce or have just been served papers, you may have questions about child custody orders and what factors will be considered in granting child custody. 

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Establishing a Child Custody Arrangement  

When it comes to child custody, you and your spouse have two options. You can both discuss the matter (with the help of your attorneys if applicable), make a joint decision, and present this decision (in Tennessee, this is called a Parenting Plan) to the court. This is the quickest, easiest, and cheapest route to finalizing a child custody agreement.  

However, many divorces are not amicable, and you and your spouse may not be able to come to a child custody agreement. If you and your spouse cannot agree on a child custody solution, you and your spouse will go to family court, where a judge will determine the child custody arrangements. In this situation, it is extremely important to have a family law attorney represent you and help make your case to the judge.   

Child Custody Basics for Parents

There are two types of custody: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody refers to the parent the child lives with, and legal custody refers to the ability of the parent to make major decisions for the child. A court can grant joint physical and legal custody, sole physical custody and joint legal custody, sole physical and legal custody, and sole legal custody and joint physical custody (although this is rare). A visitation schedule will be drawn up in the case of one parent receiving primary custody. If you and your spouse can agree on a schedule, it can be included in your Parenting Plan. If not, the court will decide. 

Primary Residential and Alternative Residential Parent

When making a Parenting Plan in Tennessee, you must draw up a “residential schedule” and designate a “primary residential parent.” The primary residential parent is the parent that the child will live with for over half the “parenting time” designated on the residential schedule. If you and your spouse have joint custody and are splitting the time with your child evenly between you, you and your spouse can decide who will be the primary residential parent together. If you cannot agree, a judge will determine the primary residential parent. The other parent is designated the “alternative residential parent.”  

The primary residential parent’s address will determine the child’s school district; the judge will take this into account when designating a primary residential parent. Unless both parents have incomes that are roughly equivalent, the court will most likely award child support to the primary residential parent (to be paid by the other parent.)   

If you are the alternative residential parent and/or do not have joint custody of your child, this does not mean that you have no rights when it comes to your child. If it is determined to be in the child’s best interest, the judge will normally ensure that the court order includes wording that specifies your rights, which include but are not limited to:  

  • The right to reach your child by phone or mail when they are not with you. 

  • The right to be notified if your child is ill, severely injured, and/or hospitalized.  

  • The right to be notified if the primary residential parent is going to take the child out of state for more than 48 hours.  

  • The right to receive your child’s educational reports and copies of your child’s medical records.  

  • The right to participate in or observe the child’s extracurricular or religious activities when parents generally have a reasonable expectation to participate or observe. 

Factors Determining Child Custody

A judge will determine custody based on the child’s “best interest.” In Tennessee, many factors are considered when deciding a child’s best interest, including but not limited to:   

  • The relationship of the child with each parent (as well as siblings and extended family members.)  

  • Each parent’s current caretaking activities.  

  • The parents’ work schedules.  

  • The potential difficulty of relocating a child from their school and present community.  

  • Whether a parent has shown signs of abuse.  

If the child is over 12 years old, their preference may also be considered as one of the determining factors. 

Modifying an Existing Child Custody Arrangement 

If there has been a major change of circumstances in your and/or your ex-spouse’s lives, you can petition the court to modify an existing child custody arrangement. Some of these circumstances may include:  

  • A parent’s abuse or neglect  

  • A parent moving to a new country for work  

  • A parent not following the court order   

  • A significant change in a parent’s work schedule or living situation  

  • The existing parenting plan ceasing to serve the best interest of the child (if a child is doing poorly in school, the child’s needs have changed due to age, etc.) 

Child Custody Attorney Serving Franklin, Tennessee

Determining child custody can be a thorny process. A practiced family law attorney can work with you to determine your family's route and argue passionately for the best interest of you and your child. Call our family law attorney Tiffany Johns at Middle Tennessee Family Law in Franklin today for a consultation.