Sometimes child custody is clear cut. For example, there are situations in which one parent does not want custody of the child at all. They give up their rights.
Also, if a couple is unmarried in Tennessee and the woman gives birth, the mother gets physical custody by default. If the father wants to pursue physical custody, he must first assert his paternity rights.
In many cases, though, child custody battles happen. They are often contentious, causing parental alienation and forcing children to pick sides. This can be sad when young children are involved and don’t really have a say in terms of choosing which parent they can live with.
Older children may be able to state their preferences, though. When parents cannot agree on child custody terms, the courts may ask the children for their input. They may be asked by the judge to state their preferences as to which parent they want to live with. Under Tennessee law, children generally must be 12 years old to testify in Tennessee custody cases. While judges may ask children under the age of 12 to state their preferences, these situations are rare.
Even if the judge does ask children younger than 12 years old to state their preferences, the older children’s preferences are given more consideration. Age always wins out. But even if the child is older than 12, the judge still does not have to abide by their preferences. The judge will need to consider them if they are reasonable, but if they feel that the other parent would be better suited for custody of the child, the judge has the right to make that decision.
Best Interests of the Child
As with all states, Tennessee law focuses on the best interests of the child. The goal of the Tennessee court is to ensure that the child gets the opportunity to have a relationship with both parents. Custody decisions are made with that goal in mind. However, it is possible that having a relationship with both parents is not in the best interests of the child, especially if there is evidence of abuse or substance use.
The court will take into consideration the following:
- The child’s relationship with each parent
- The love and affection between the child and parents
- The parenting responsibilities of each parent
- The ability to provide each child with food, clothing, shelter, and other essentials
- Which parent has been the primary caregiver
- The child’s relationship with siblings and other family members
- The importance of stability in the child’s life
- Any evidence of physical or emotional abuse to the child
- Each parent’s employment schedule
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Children can testify in Tennessee child custody cases if they are old enough and have a preference. However, just because a child testifies does not mean a judge will rule in their favor.
Child custody can be complex. A Tennessee child custody lawyer from The Law Office of David L. Scott can help you understand the laws involved. Schedule a consultation today by filling out the online form or calling (615) 896-7656.