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Legal Information: Tennessee


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Laws current as of November 27, 2023

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:

  • the location of each parent’s home;
  • the child’s need for stability;
  • love, affection, and emotional ties existing between the parents and the child;
  • the ability of the parents to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, education, and other necessary care;
  • if one parent 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 should not harm your chances of getting custody;
  • the stability of the family unit of the parents;
  • the mental and physical health of the parents;
  • the home, school, and community records of the child;
  • any “reasonable preference” of a child who is twelve years old or older as to where they want to live; 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;
  • the character and behavior of any other person living in, or frequently visiting, a parent’s home and that person’s interactions with the child;
  • whether a parent has failed to pay court-ordered child support for a period of three years or more; and
  • each parent’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. In determining each party’s willingness, the judge is supposed to consider:
    • the likelihood of each parent to honor and facilitate court-ordered parenting arrangements and rights; and
    • any history of either parent of denying parenting time to the other 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)