Compassionate Clarksville Child Custody Lawyers
At Batson Nolan PLC, we understand the importance of protecting your child’s well-being, both today and in the future. In Tennessee, the courts evaluate custody arrangements by examining whether the arrangement proposed is in the best interests of the child or children. Our Clarksville child custody attorneys craft our cases around this best interest analysis and statutory factors, all while we ensure that your families’ individual situation and your child’s individual needs are taken into account.
As your Clarksville child custody lawyers, we work toward helping you understand all the legal options as well as assisting you in creating a practical custody arrangement that reflects your family’s personal situation as well as your child’s best interest.
Tennessee courts recognize and encourage the involvement of both the mother and father in the child’s life. Courts are challenged with the task of maximizing each parents time with the child while taking into account the individual needs of the child, the schedules of the parents, the geographic location of the parents, and other factors which may come into play. Courts encourage shared parenting and task the parents with sharing and cooperating in important parenting decisions.
Courts understand the challenge of co-parenting after a custody hearing and encourage parties to reach agreements on child custody matters and communicate effectively after a divorce. Courts also understand the importance of parents encouraging a child’s relationship with the other parent.
In cases of parental relocation, one parent is attempting to move outside the state or more than 50 miles from the other parent. The legislature of Tennessee has established a parental relocation statute to direct how to proceed when one parent is contemplating a relocation. The laws regarding parental relocation are very complex, strict and evolving.
Major language changes to the relocation statute (T.C.A. § 36-6-108) take effect July 1, 2018, so it is very important to hire a child custody law firm who is well-versed in the statutory changes and complex case law nuances of parental relocations. Parental relocation cases once turned on whether the parties were spending substantially equal time with the children, with varying burdens of proof depending on time spent with the children.
The new statutory language changes all of that. In cases of parental relocation, new custody arrangements must be reached and often times new child support arrangements must also be reached. At Batson Nolan PLC, our Clarksville child custody attorneys are very familiar with parental relocation statute and case law and understand the importance of swift legal action in the event of proposed relocation.
In Tennessee, the first step to establishing custodial and visitation rights is the declaration of paternity of the father. Men who were married to the child’s mother at the time of the birth are generally presumed to be the biological father and generally do not have to undergo the paternity establishment process. If the father and the mother are not married, however, it is important for the father to establish paternity.
Unlike in the case of married parties, if parties are unmarried when a child is born, the Mother holds all the legal rights to the child until paternity is established by the court and a parenting plan is set in place. Tennessee courts have made great strides in allowing fathers greater rights and time with children, but unmarried fathers still face significant challenges in their efforts to gain parental rights and relationships with their children. Upon the establishment of paternity, fathers will be required to begin paying child support and providing for the child financially, yet will also gain the visitation or child custody rights.
Our experienced Clarksville child custody lawyers are committed to fighting for father’s rights as they endeavor to establish paternity and relationships with their children.
Parenting Plans in Tennessee
Tennessee has backed away from terms like “full custody” or “noncustodial parent” and has instead focused on parents developing a plan on how they will raise their children. Parents must complete a parenting plan as part of any divorce case involving child custody. This plan is a detailed, written outline that provides vital information about the custody arrangement including:
- Identifying the primary and alternate residential parent – The primary residential parent is the one in which the child spends more than half of their time. The alternate residential parent is the other parent who has some time with the child.
- Regular parenting time – The regular parenting time schedule includes the parents’ agreement regarding when each parent will have time with the children, such as the alternate residential parent spending every other weekend with the child or the parents splitting the week.
- Special parenting time – The parenting plan should also detail how parenting time will be split on holidays, summer vacations, school breaks, and other times that fall outside of regular parenting time.
- Final decision-making authority – The parenting plan should state which parent will have the final vote regarding important decisions for the child, such as decisions regarding the child’s education, medical care, religion, or extracurricular activities if the parents cannot agree on these subjects.
- Transportation – The parenting plan may describe how the child will get to visits with the alternate residential parent.
- Child support – The parenting plan may include worksheets and information regarding how much child support should be paid and under what terms. The amount of parenting time will affect how much child support must be paid so that the more days the alternate residential parent spends with the child, the less child support he or she will be responsible for paying. The amount of parenting time is treated as a variable based on a “day” with the child, which is defined as 12 or more consecutive hours with the child within a 24-hour timeframe.
- Other details – These plans are often drafted after mediation or the parties have had time to consider what is in their child’s best interests. The parents may agree to additional terms that they want to be part of the official court order regarding custody and raising their child.
The parents are encouraged to develop a parenting plan on their own or in the course of the mediation. Divorcing parents must attend a four-hour parenting class as part of their divorce. However, if they are unable to reach these decisions, the family law judge can name the primary residential parent, establish the parenting time, and set child support based on the state child support guidelines.
Custody Modification in Tennessee
After parents divorce or a child custody order is entered, one or both parents might want to change the custody arrangement. The parents are typically freely able to make changes that they both agree to and can ask the court to modify the previous order. If the parents do not agree on specific changes, the parent wanting the change has to show that there has been a “material change of circumstances” that materially affects the well-being of the child. The standard to change the parenting plan in smaller ways is lower than to change the person who should be the primary residential parent.
Common reasons for a modification are due to a parental move, parental misconduct, or a change in the child’s preference. Tennessee family courts will consider whether the child’s life has been disrupted and if a change is warranted when a parent petitions to modify the existing custody arrangement. Parents will be required to attend mediation before being able to get a family court judge to make a decision on custody.
Under Tennessee law, grandparents do have visitation rights, but those rights are not without limitation. Both the Federal and state Constitutions recognize that parents have a fundamental right to raise their children as they see fit. This fundamental right is exclusively for parents, not grandparents. This difference can often create issues, particularly when an in-tact family decides to limit or sever contact between a grandparent and a child.
The Tennessee statute outlining grandparent visitation rights only applies in certain situations, and the case law regarding such is evolving, so grandparent visitation is determined on a case by case basis. Until recently, the Tennessee’s grandparent visitation statute, T.C.A. § 36-6-306, was triggered only if a parent “opposed” visitation with the grandparent. The state legislature recently changed the language of the statute to include the phrase “or if the grandparent visitation has been severely reduced by the custodial parent or parents or custodian.” The statute does not apply to married parents whose fitness is not in question, and only applies in certain situations.
At Batson Nolan PLC, we are familiar with grandparents rights as set forth in statute and as outlined in case law, and we are prepared to advise you as to the best route given your particular situation.
Step Parent Visitation
The legislature recognizes the importance of stepparents in a child’s life and Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-6-303 permits a trial court to allow visitation with a stepparent in the event that the stepparent or spouse file for divorce or annulment. Two factors are taken into consideration when considering the question of stepparent visitation. The first factor considered with whether the visitation would be in the best interest of the child and the second states that the stepparent is entitled to visitation rights only if he or she is actually contributing toward the support of the child.
While the law recognizes that the continuation of a relationship with the stepparent might be in the best interest of the child, the legislative intent of the statute emphasizes that that the relationship should be important enough for the stepparent to file a petition with the court and that the stepparent should also be willing to contribute financially to the care of the child.
This second factor of financial support is likely in place to help the court determine which stepparents are truly interested in the child and not just retaliation against a former spouse. While this is a relatively new area of family law, at Batson Nolan PLC, we understand the importance of stepparents in a child’s life, and are prepared to represent you in your quest to maintain a relationship with your stepchild after a divorce.
Call Your Clarksville Child Custody Attorneys Today
If you need legal for child custody, visitation, or modification, give us a call and let our child custody lawyers help you. Our compassionate lawyers understand the importance of protecting your child and are here to act in the best interest of your child. Contact us online or give us a call today!