Legal Information: Tennessee


November 9, 2021

How will a judge make a decision about custody?

Custody is determined according to the best interest of the child. The judge will order a custody arrangement that allows both parents to have as much participation as possible in the life of the child while taking into consideration the following factors:

  • location of each parent’s home;
  • the child’s need for stability;
  • 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;
  • the degree to which a parent or caregiver has been the primary caregiver;
  • the importance of continuity in the child’s life and the length of time the child has lived in a stable environment - however, if you can prove to the judge that you took your child from the home because the other parent abused your child, this relocation will not harm your chances of getting 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; Note: The judge may hear the preference of a younger child if you request it. The preferences of older children are 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’s 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 of denying parenting time to either parent in violation of a court order.1

If one parent is disabled, the disability alone cannot be considered unless the disability impacts the parent’s ability to meet the needs of the child.2

1 TN ST § 36-6-106(a)
2 TN ST § 36-6-106(e)

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