Resolving issues of child custody can be one of the most vexing issues in a divorce. The Tennessee legislature has attempted to alleviate parents' concerns in this area by requiring either the divorcing couple or the court to devise temporary and permanent parenting plans. Both kinds of plans are intended to eliminate or sharply reduce battles over child custody.
The first concern of most parents in Tennessee when they and their spouse have decided to end their marriage is custody of the children. As we noted in a prior post, Tennessee courts want the parents to reach an agreement about child custody and child support -- as well as all other issues in the divorce. If couples cannot reach an agreement about child custody, or if such an agreement is deemed unreasonable or unenforceable for any reason, the courts will intervene.
Child custody issues can become a huge problem during a divorce proceeding, largely because of the emotional ties that every parent has toward the children. Most parents feel that they would go to any length to be with their children.
Tennessee parents often prefer to go for a settlement out of court or alternative dispute resolution approach like arbitration, mediation or even collaborative law in order to determine child custody instead of going through a long, drawn-out, bitter court hearing. All of the conditions and agreements that are reached between the parties involved and their attorneys are then enumerated in a child custody agreement, which is often referred to as a parenting agreement.
Gaining child custody over one's minor children can be an emotionally grueling task. In many cases, the non-custodial parent is often resentful of the custodial parent. Non-custodial parents who violate a child custody order can be liable for not only civil lawsuits but also for criminal charges under Tennessee law.
Child custody can often be a controversial issue in a divorce or separation legal proceeding between Tennessee parents. The courts usually award child custody to one parent on the basis of the best interests of the child. Thus, violating such child custody orders can attract several serious penalties under the law.
In Tennessee, family courts have temporary emergency jurisdiction in child custody cases when a child has been abandoned or a parent or a sibling of the child has been threatened or abused. If the court doesn't issue a temporary emergency order, it may try to ease the situation by finding a petitioner who can take immediate physical custody of a child to remove the child from the harmful situation.
Divorced spouses in Tennessee may be aware of the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act, which prohibits abduction or forced custody of a child by the non-custodial parent. Parental kidnapping generally refers to the non-custodial parent detaining a child within a state or removing the child from the resident state, after visitation rights have ended or have been cancelled by the court.
A common point of discussion and debate is the rights of unmarried fathers to obtain child custody and visitation. Every state, including Tennessee, has its own definition of "father" and "parent" and these definitions play a significant role in the court's decision regarding child custody and visitation. Thankfully, fathers' rights have evolved and current Tennessee law allows an unmarried father to claim custody of his child.
In divorces involving minor children, it is the children who are often the most affected. Many become worried about the future and which parent they will live with. They may feel torn between both parents, especially if they are being asked to choose sides. This is when a neutral third party is most needed. For this reason, courts will act in the best interests of children and award child custody to one parent and require the other to pay regular child support. However, as some Tennessee parents who have been awarded custody know, collection can turn out to be a problem if the other parent takes the children to another state, especially one with different child-custody laws.