Legal Information: Tennessee


June 16, 2017

How will a judge make a decision about custody?

Custody is determined according to the best interest of the child.  In taking into account the child's best interest, the judge will order a custody arrangement that allows both parents to have as much participation as possible in the life of the child, taking into consideration the factors listed below, the location of the residences of the parents, the child's need for stability and all other relevant factors. The judge will consider all relevant factors, including:

  • Love, affection and emotional ties existing between the parents or caregivers and the child;
  • Ability of the parents or caregivers to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, education and other necessary care;
  • Degree to which a parent or caregiver has been the primary caregiver;
  • Importance of continuity in the child's life and the length of time the child has lived in a stable environment (If the court finds that the other parent abused your child, and you took the child from the home because of this, your relocation will not weigh against an award of custody.);
  • Stability of the family unit of the parents or caregivers;
  • Mental and physical health of the parents or caregivers;
  • Home, school and community record of the child;
  • Reasonable preference of a child who is twelve years old or older (The judge may hear the preference of a younger child on request. The preferences of older children should normally be given greater weight than those of younger children.);
  • Evidence of physical or emotional abuse to the child, to the other parent or to any other person;
  • Character and behavior of any other person living in or frequently visiting a parent’s home and his/her interactions with the child; and
  • Each parent or caregiver's ability to manage parenting responsibilities, including his/her willingness and ability to encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and other parent or caregiver.  In determining each party's willingness, the judge is supposed to consider: 
    • the likelihood of each parent and caregiver to honor and facilitate court-ordered parenting arrangements and rights; and
    • any history of either parent or any caregiver denying parenting time to either parent in violation of a court order.*

* TN ST § 36-6-106(a)