Though divorce brings many stressors, child custody battles are often the most difficult. Some parents can amicably share custody of their children, while others argue over every minute of their children’s time.
Hostile child custody situations require legal intervention for the physical and emotional safety of the children and parents. At Batson Nolan PLC, we’ve been helping Tennessee families resolve child custody disputes for more than a century. We provide personalized advice and strategies to protect you and your children. Contact us today.
In this article, we will share how to deal with a hostile child custody situation.
What Is Tennessee Child Custody Law?
Tennessee laws on child custody determine which parent or other family member cares for a child. Tennessee recognizes two categories of child custody:
- Physical custody determines where the child lives; and
- Legal custody determines who makes medical and educational decisions for the child.
The court has wide discretion to determine a custody arrangement that is in the best interest of the child. Tennessee courts aren’t supposed to make custody decisions based on the gender of the parent. Though the court presumes that joint custody is in the child’s best interest when both parents are fit and agree to share custody, evidence that one parent is better able to care for the child may result in a different order.
Best Interest Factors
Tennessee courts consider these factors in determining the best custody arrangement for the child:
- The relative incomes of the two parents;
- Each parent’s desire to raise the child based on their stated preference and each parent’s history of involvement in the child’s life;
- Each parent’s ability to care for the child;
- History of abuse or neglect; and
- The child’s stated preference if they are 12 or older.
No factor is determinative, but the court considers them all to determine the best custody arrangement for the child.
If a parent seeks to modify the custody arrangement later, they must present evidence that circumstances have changed. The court doesn’t want parents requesting custody changes for arbitrary reasons, so building a strong case for your custody modification is essential.
What Is Hostility?
The online legal dictionary by Farlex defines hostility as “a state of open enmity,” and Merriam-Webster defines it as “deep-seated usually mutual ill will.” Whatever definition you use, most people can feel it and know when conversations or interactions become hostile.
How Can You Avoid Hostile Child Custody?
It may be impossible to avoid all hostility with your ex. However, the way you approach child custody negotiations can make a difference in your relationship. Most importantly, limiting hostility when addressing custody issues can reduce stress for your children.
Resolving your custody disagreement through litigation in court is both stressful and expensive. When possible, we recommend a more cooperative approach to negotiating child custody. Our law office offers mediation services. In mediation, you and your spouse meet with a mediator outside of court. The mediator does not take sides but helps facilitate communication between you and the other parent as you work together to create a mutually agreed-upon child custody arrangement.
In a successful mediation, you and the other parent will draft a child custody agreement with the help of our attorneys. Once you and your ex sign the agreement, it becomes a legally binding contract. If you and the other parent cannot agree on a child custody arrangement, you can allow a judge to make the decision for you. But this may not always go how you’d like, so it’s preferable for the parents to reach a compromise they both can live with.
What if You Have Safety Concerns?
When you are concerned about your child’s safety while they are with their other parent, it can be very difficult to agree to shared custody. Child custody negotiations often become hostile, but you must know how to recognize when hostility turns into abuse. In other words, your co-parent may begin demonstrating hostile parenting. What is hostile parenting? Marriage.com defines hostile parenting as “an intense and harming type of maltreatment and abuse that guardians and even other relatives can take part in.” If you have immediate safety concerns, contact the police. If it’s not an imminent emergency, contact a lawyer right away. There are legal actions you can take to protect your child.
Gather Evidence of Abuse
You should bring any evidence of domestic abuse, child abuse, or violence to the court for your initial custody hearing or custody modification hearing. Evidence could include the following:
- Text messages,
- Police reports,
- Medical records, and
- Witnesses to acts of violence.
Courts usually take such assertions seriously and investigate them to determine if the claims are true. The court may bring child protective services in to investigate claims of child abuse. If so, social workers might interview your children, your neighbors, extended family members, and coworkers in an effort to validate your claim. The court may also order your child to have a physical or mental health examination to investigate a claim of abuse.
Request Protective Orders
While this investigation takes place, you can request protective orders, which may include precautions such as your spouse having supervised visitation with your children. If your ex threatens to harm you or your child, you can request a restraining order to try to prevent contact. If your ex violates the restraining order, you should immediately call the police.
Contact Our Knowledgeable Attorneys
When you face a hostile child custody negotiation, you need an experienced lawyer on your side. Both parents bring strong emotions to child custody arguments, and it’s best to work through them with the help of a legal professional.
At Batson Nolan PLC, we help families get through difficult child custody battles to come to a fair arrangement for everyone. Most of all, we look to protect the physical and emotional safety of the children in such situations.
Our attorneys can help you and the other parent work out a custody plan in mediation. However, we are prepared to skillfully represent you in court if needed. We can also take swift legal action to keep your child safe. Contact us for a consultation where we can discuss your best options.