Child Custody Determination in Tennessee
In a child custody determination, there is only one hard and fast rule the court must follow: What is in the best interest of the child?
A child custody determination is factually driven and requires the courts to carefully weigh numerous considerations – but the overriding consideration is what is in the best interest of the child. In choosing which parent to designate as the primary residential parent for the child, the court must conduct a “comparative fitness” analysis, requiring the court to determine which of the available parents would be more fit than the other.
In engaging in this analysis, the court must consider the factors set out in Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-6-106(a).
Child Custody Determinations: considerations courts must take into account
- Love, affection and emotional ties between the parents or caregivers and the child.
- The disposition of the parent to provide the child with necessities such as food, clothing, medical care, education and other necessary care and the degree to which a parent or caregiver has been the primary caregiver.
- Continuity in the child’s life and the length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment.
- Family members, such as grandparents, aunts and uncles, who are willing to help care for the child.
- Mental and physical health of the parents.
- The court must take into account a child’s preference if he/she is 12 years of age. But the child’s preference is not binding. Additionally, the court will consider the reasons for the child’s preference. Is the basis of the preference due to incentives from a parent?
- 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 who resides in or frequents the home of a parent or caregiver and the person’s interactions with the child.
- Parent’s past performance and the potential for the future performance of their parenting responsibilities, which includes the willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate a good relationship between the child and the other parent.
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