At Durak Law Firm, you can expect compassionate and experienced legal guidance as you negotiate custody of your child. The firm treats all clients with respect and seeks to inform parents of all their possible options. Attorney Michal Durakiewicz will take a thorough look at your situation and ensure your and your child’s rights are being protected in your custody negotiations.
Determining Child Custody
When parents are discussing separation or divorce, child custody will naturally be one of the most important matters of negotiation. In Tennessee, child custody can be either joint or sole for legal and physical custody. Parents can settle an agreement for custody between themselves, though if they cannot reach an agreement the Tennessee family courts will make the final decision to award custody to either or both parents. To make this decision, the court will primarily consider the child’s best interests, which include the following factors:
- the child's relationship with each parent;
- each parent’s caretaking role and obligations;
- the child's relationships with siblings and extended family members;
- the child’s adjustment to home, school, and community;
- the importance of continuity in the child’s life, such as how long they have lived in their current environment;
- either parent’s history of domestic violence or emotional abuse;
- each parent’s moral, physical, mental, and emotional fitness;
- the child’s reasonable preference if 12 years old or older;
- each parent’s work schedule; and
- any other relevant factor.
Note that relocation may or may not affect a custody order. If a parent seeks to move more than 100 miles away, they must notify the other parent 60 days before the move, and the notice must include:
- statement of the intent to move;
- address of the new location;
- reasons for the relocation; and
- statement that the other parent may object to the move within 30 days.
When evaluating the move, the court will consider the same best-interest factors of the child as mentioned above, primarily the stability of the child's current home, school, and community; whether the primary residential parent (PRP) will comply with a new custody and visitation schedule; and the child's preference, if they are 12 years or older.
Keep in mind that a parent who does not have primary custody is, in most cases, nonetheless entitled to regular communication and some form of a relationship with their child. Usually, this could be in the form of at least one weeknight visit and visits every other weekend or telephone calls with the child 2 times a week. The nonresidential parent may also receive school and medical records for their child, such as copies of their report card, attendance records, and test scores. Note that a parent without decision-making responsibilities over the child (without legal custody) is still entitled to make emergency medical decisions while the child is in that parent’s care.
Visitation And Parenting Plans
Visitation, or parenting plans, goes hand-in-hand with custody orders. Parenting plans allocate parenting responsibilities and outline each parent’s right to spend time with and make decisions on behalf of the child. A parenting plan will establish each parent’s specific visitation schedule, including weeknight, weekend, holiday, and summer visitation. Parenting plans can be temporary or permanent; temporary plans are implemented while a custody case is pending, and permanent plans are a final court order.
As with custody, parents can negotiate a parenting plan between themselves without the interference of the court and submit their joint plan to the court for approval. When parents can’t agree, however, each parent should submit their own plan to the court at least 45 days before trial.
Modifying An Existing Order
Naturally, circumstances change as a child grows older that may require changes to a standing custody order. Either parent can file a petition to modify an order if they show there has been a material change in circumstances and the modification would be in the best interests of the child. Note that a parent’s minor misconduct (e.g., an affair, public intoxication) may not justify a change unless those actions directly affect the child’s best interests. However, substantial reasons for modification could be if:
- a child is doing poorly in their school;
- the child is experiencing abuse; or
- the residential parent has taken a job requiring international relocation.
A judge can modify an order in a number of different ways, such as adjusting the primary residential parent or reallocating parenting time.
Let Durak Law Firm Protect Your Rights As A Parent
If you are facing or anticipate facing a custody battle over your child, consult an experienced child custody lawyer for legal guidance. Divorce negotiations can be emotionally and mentally trying, and it is best to have a legal professional on your side to handle the legal side of things. Durak Law Firm takes a compassionate approach to all its cases, especially those involving parents and their children, and Attorney Michal Durakiewicz will do his best to protect your and your child’s interests in the face of a complicated and conflicting custody battle.
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