What Do the Courts Consider as the Child’s Best Interests?

In Tennessee, divorcing or separating parents are encouraged to come up with their own custody arrangement. Not only will you save time and money, but when you prepare a parenting plan that reflects and accommodates your unique family dynamics, it’s more likely to be successful.

While this is the ideal, not all parents can work together to create their own plan. Bitterness and resentment over past slights often prevent a constructive negotiation process, making it necessary for a family court judge to step in and make that decision for them.

The Best Interests of the Child Standard

If you and your spouse can’t agree, Tennessee uses the best interests of the child standard to determine what parenting schedule is the most appropriate. In the context of a custody case, focusing on the child’s best interests means that the court makes its decisions based on what outcome will encourage and sustain the child’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being. 

To help guide their decision, judges consider the factors like the following:

  • Which parent has been the primary caregiver. 
  • The child’s history and relationship with each parent.
  • Each parent’s physical, emotional, and psychological fitness to care for the child.
  • Each parent’s willingness to cooperate with the other in raising the child.
  • The ability of each parent to provide food, shelter, clothing, medical care, and education.
  • The child’s current living arrangements and whether or not a change will disrupt their sense of stability.
  • Each parent’s employment schedule.
  • Whether or not each parent has acted in good faith during the custody determination proceedings.
  • The character of anyone else who lives in the parent’s home (e.g. adult siblings, aunts or uncles) and that person’s relationship with the child.
  • Any history of domestic violence, child abuse or neglect, and substance abuse.
  • Testimony from any party who has reasonable insight into what is best for the child.

The goal of the court is to make a custody order that allows the child to maintain a relationship with both parents while creating minimal disruption in their lives and routines. Depending on the circumstances, this might mean that one parent receives sole custody while the other has visitation, or the parents share joint legal and physical conservatorship, which allows each parent to make legal decisions for the child and have the child live with them according to a specified schedule.

If the court is making a custody determination in your divorce, you can maximize the time you get with your child by showing the judge that you have been actively involved in his or her life and has always been an attentive and loving parent. Evidence of such dedication might include:

  • Active involvement in their upbringing and education
  • Taking care of the child when they were ill
  • Supporting the child’s involvement in extracurricular activities
  • Evidence of regular parenting decisions that demonstrate a dedication to caring for the child

Contact a Tennessee Child Custody Attorney

Custody can be one of the most difficult issues a parent faces during a Tennessee divorce or separation, especially for professional men with concerns about maternal preference in custody awards.  At Piper McCracken PLLC, we believe that fathers play an indispensable role in their children’s lives and will present you as a loving and dedicated parent who deserves maximum time with their children. To schedule a confidential consultation, contact us today.

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Piper McCracken, PLLC

Our firm began as a belief that things could be done better—in both the practice of law and in the working lives of lawyers. Founding partners, Heather Piper and Joanna McCracken, met while working as attorneys at a large, regional firm. They honed their skills as litigators on a broad range of cases from medical malpractice and product liability, to real estate and entertainment law. But it was their mutual desire to help people on a more personal level that inspired them to begin a family law practice.

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