Chattanooga Attorney Handles Your Child “Custody” and “Visitation” Agreements
Protecting your time with your children
At Jenkins & Habenicht Attorneys at Law, PLLC, we understand that your children are your first priority during your divorce. We diligently work to protect their best interests and to ensure that your time with them is protected. Our attorney can help you determine what type of child “custody” arrangement and “visitation” schedule works best for you and your family in your Tennessee divorce settlement.
Primary & alternate residential parents designated by court using a parenting plan
“Custody” and “visitation” are terms no longer used by the courts regarding children in divorce cases in Tennessee. Instead, parents are to share in the residential parenting time of their children. “Custody” equates to a primary or alternate residential parent designation: The parent with whom a child spends the majority of his or her residential time is designated as the primary residential parent. “Visitation” equates to a residential parenting time schedule: The parent with “visitation” is now designated as the alternate residential parent.
A parenting plan is used by the courts to designate the primary residential parent and the alternate residential parent. The number of days that each parent has residential parenting time is the main factor in making these determinations. The plan sets out the children’s residential parenting schedule with each parent, including weekly and weekend schedules, as well as holiday schedules. Jenkins & Habenicht has litigated and won primary parent status for many fathers.
There are also determinations set out in the parenting plan as to which parent or parents have certain decision-making powers such as education, religion and non-emergent medical decisions. The plan also describes the rights, duties and obligations that all parents have, pursuant to Tennessee law.
The primary residential parent is usually the parent receiving child support. Even when the court approves a 50/50 residential parenting schedule, a child support calculation is often performed to determine if child support is required to be paid to the primary residential parent.
Factors in determining the children’s best interest
The overriding legal standard in deciding parenting issues is what is in the best interest of the children. The state legislature has set out 10 factors to assist courts in determining this.
Tennessee Code Annotated §36-6-106 provides that in a suit for divorce requiring the court to make a custody determination regarding a minor child, the determination shall be made on the basis of the best interest of the child. The court shall consider all relevant factors, including these 10 factors:
- The love, affection and emotional ties existing between the parents or caregivers and the child
- The disposition of the parents or caregivers to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, education and other necessary care and 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, satisfactory environment, provided that, where there is a finding, under subdivision (a)(8), of child abuse, or child sexual abuse, by one parent, and that a non-perpetrating parent or caregiver has relocated in order to flee the perpetrating parent, that the relocation shall not weigh against an award of custody
- The stability of the family unit of the parents or caregivers
- The mental and physical health of the parents or caregivers
- The home, school and community record of the child
- The reasonable preference of the child, if 12 years of age or older
- Evidence of physical or emotional abuse
- The character and behavior of any other person who resides in or frequents the home of a parent or caregiver and the person’s interactions with the child
- Each parent or caregiver’s past and potential for future performance of parenting responsibilities, including the willingness and ability of each of the parents and caregivers to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and both of the child’s parents, consistent with the best interest of the child.
How custody affects child support
Child custody and child support are two separate decisions made by the court, but they often have an effect on each other. These common questions point to the relationship between child support and child custody:
- If both parents share custody, does anyone pay child support? Yes. The amount of child support paid depends on the parenting plan and how many hours per week each parent is with the children. In a 50-50 split, child support is based on split parenting time.
- Can a parent refuse to allow visitation if child support is not paid? No, visitation rights cannot be withheld; they are supported by court order. If child support is not being paid, it must be dealt with through the legal system. Likewise, a parent cannot withhold child support if he or she is not being allowed visitation.
It is also important to note that if child custody arrangements are altered, modifications to child support can be made.
Put our experience to work for you in your child “custody” proceeding
At Jenkins & Habenicht Attorneys at Law, PLLC, we remain accessible throughout your case and return your calls promptly. To schedule a meeting, please call us at 423-402-9354 or contact us online. We are conveniently located downtown on the edge of the University of Tennessee Chattanooga campus.