When parents divorce, it is not just their lives that are affected, but the children’s as well. Divorce often means moving and changing schools; for some children, it also means a change in their standard of living. Some children will voice their opinions about where they want to live, to regain at least a modicum of control while their world seems to spin out of control.
In Tennessee, there is no real age where a child’s choice is the most important factor in who is granted custody. The court is not bound to accept the choice of a child, either. However, in certain circumstances, if the child is 12 years or older, he or she can testify before the court and express his or her wishes about which parent he or she wants to live with after the divorce. The court may take the child’s wishes into consideration as they consider all the other factors that would have an influence on what is in the best interest of the child.
What influences a court’s decision about custody?
There are some situations when the parents are unable to come to an agreement about who will serve as the primary residential parent, and who will have visitation as the alternate residential parent. In cases like this, the court will make the decision about child custody. There are a host of factors in Tennessee law that the court must consider when deciding custody which include:
- The existing bond between each parent and the child
- The location of each parents’ homes
- The child’s need for a stable environment
- Each parent’s ability to provide for the child
- The mental health of both parents
- Whether there has been physical or emotional abuse to the child or the other parent
- The character and behavior of other people who live in or frequent each household
- The past and potential of each parent to uphold parental responsibilities, and each parent’s willingness to foster a bond between the child and their other parent
- Each parent’s likelihood of abiding by the court-ordered parenting arrangements
All the changes that can come with a divorce – the conflict, the chaos, the emotional upheaval – affect children in ways that can follow them the rest of their lives. When parents can take steps to make sure that their child’s desires are heard and honored, it can help ease a little bit of fear and anxiety that children often feel. Divorcing parents must come together and develop a Parenting Plan Agreement, which includes such decisions as which parent the child will sleep most nights, and which parent will have visitation. It also contains the residential schedule and every detail about the child’s life. If the parents can come to an agreement about child custody and the development of the parenting plan, and show that the decisions were made with the best interests of the children in mind, the court usually approves it.
When their lives have been turned upside down by divorce, older children sometimes want to have a say in determining with which parent they will live for most of the time, and which parent they will visit. Our experienced Nashville child custody lawyers can help guide you through the complicated process of divorce and deciding child custody. You are welcome to call 615-391-4200 or use our contact form to reserve an in-person or video consultation with the dedicated 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.