For parents who have “survived” the divorce and who are doing their best to make their new relationship as co-parents work, understanding their custody rights can help alleviate a lot of confusion and frustration. For single parents who have never been married to their child’s other parent, it can be helpful to know what your rights are so that you can respect the rights of your co-parent, and so that you can know when your rights are not being respected and take action when necessary. Every Parenting Plan is different, and knowing your rights before you start may help you and your co-parent work together more easily (or give you and your attorney a stronger case if the other parent refuses to compromise or see reason).
Changes in the law
Tennessee enacted a law in 2011 requiring judges to give both parents as much parenting time as possible. Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 36-6-106(a) states:
“In taking into account the child’s best interest, 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 out below, the location of the residences of the parents, the child’s need for stability and all other relevant factors.”
The former standard granted one parent (often, but not always, the mother) primary residential custody, while the other parent had visitation every other weekend, some holidays and a few weeks in the summer. This newer version of the law should allow for a more equal partnership between parents when it comes to raising their children, but many judges still default to the more “traditional” version of custody. Judges still have many factors to consider when determining parenting time arrangements, which is why you want the counsel an experienced Nashville family law attorney when it comes time to create your parenting plan.
A few years after the bill was enacted, Tennessee lawmakers further clarified what is and is not permitted with regard to child custody, parental rights and parenting time schedules. The bill came to be known as the Tennessee Parental Bill of Rights, and it clarifies the rights each parent has regardless of whether the child is living with or visiting the other parent. The actual text of the law, T.C. Ann. §36-6-110, can be found here.
Under this Bill of Rights, both parents have certain rights, including:
- Unimpeded telephone conversations when the child is with the other parent
- Send uncensored mail
- Receive notice of illness, hospitalization or death of the child within 24 hours of the incident
- Receive copies of school records, reports cards, test scores and any other records that are made available to parents
- Receive copies of the child’s medical records
- Be free of unwanted, derogatory remarks made by the other parent to or in the presence of the child
Parenting time disputes can become emotional and volatile, but it is important to know that child custody orders have the force of law. If your co-parent is not abiding by the agreement, you can and should notify your Nashville family law attorney and find out what your legal options are.
Do you ever wonder exactly what your rights are as a co-parent? Are you having difficulties with a co-parent that is trying to deprive you of your court-ordered parenting time? Working with an experienced Nashville divorce attorney can help you resolve those differences and create a workable plan that will support the needs of your child into the future. Please call 615-391-4200 or fill out our contact form to reserve your consultation with the experienced legal team at Miller Upshaw Family Law, PLLC.
Karla C. Miller has devoted her entire career to the practice of family law in Tennessee. She attended Auburn University and Nashville School of Law, and upon graduation in 1996, she opened her own law firm and has been assisting families throughout Tennessee since then. Learn more about Karla C. Miller here.