Whether it be an initial custody determination as part of a divorce or following the establishment of paternity, a modification of an existing parenting plan, or a modification of the primary residential parent, Tennessee courts are tasked with making custody decisions that serve the best interest of the child at issue in the case. In Tennessee, the court shall order a custody arrangement that permits both parents to enjoy the maximum participation possible in the life of the child consistent with the factors set forth in T.C.A. §36-6-106. We encourage you to review T.C.A. §36-6-106 and educate themselves on the factors that judges and chancellors consider when deciding your case.
In an initial custody determination, most commonly as part of a divorce or following a paternity determination, the court will conduct a comparative fitness evaluation in accordance with T.C.A. §36-6-106. The court will then issue findings of facts and conclusions of law detailing the court’s analysis of the proof in your case and reasons for its ruling. The court is then required to enter an order naming one parent as the “primary residential parent” (PRP) and the other as the “alternative residential parent” (ARP).
After an initial custody order is entered by the court, a parent can file a petition seeking to change the primary residential parent or modify the existing parenting plan. In order to prevail, a parent will need to first prove that a material change of circumstances exists and then that the best interest of the child is served by ordering a change of the PRP or modification of the parenting plan.
Just as every child is different, every custody case is as well. Do not make the mistake of speaking with a friend about his or her case and thinking you will be successful using the same strategy. We encourage you to be represented by an experienced attorney from the beginning of this process. We will counsel you on how Tennessee law applies to the specific facts of your case and help you organize your proof to put yourself in the best position for mediation and trial.