What Does Sole Custody Mean in Tennessee?

By Mary Jane Freeman

Divorce is never easy, especially when children are involved. Whether you're negotiating custody with your soon-to-be ex or petitioning the court directly, it's important to know the different forms of custody available, the rights and responsibilities that come with each, and the factors a judge considers when awarding custody. If sole custody is your ultimate objective, a Tennessee court will evaluate whether this arrangement is in the best interests of your child.

Divorce is never easy, especially when children are involved. Whether you're negotiating custody with your soon-to-be ex or petitioning the court directly, it's important to know the different forms of custody available, the rights and responsibilities that come with each, and the factors a judge considers when awarding custody. If sole custody is your ultimate objective, a Tennessee court will evaluate whether this arrangement is in the best interests of your child.

Sole Custody Basics

Tennessee recognizes both legal and physical custody. Legal custody represents a parent's right to decide how her child will be raised, as it relates to education, religion, health care and the like. Physical custody, on the other hand, represents a parent's right to provide a home for her child and see to the child's day-to-day needs. If a Tennessee court grants you sole custody, you will possess both, giving you the right to both raise and provide a home for your child as you see fit. Since you will not be sharing custody with your child's other parent, the court will likely grant him visitation rights so he also has an opportunity to foster and maintain a parent-child relationship with the child.

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Joint Custody Distinguished

Like many states, Tennessee presumes joint custody, also known as shared custody or shared parenting, is in the best interests of the child when both parents agree. Unlike sole custody, shared custody means both parents provide a home for the child and together make decisions about the child's education, health and welfare. Typically, the amount of time the child is to spend in each parent's home and the requirement that all major decisions involving the child are made jointly is outlined in a parenting plan, entered into by the parents and approved by the court when the divorce is finalized. Although joint custody is ideal, it is only feasible when parents can share in the "care, custody and control" of their children amicably.

Best Interests of the Child

When deciding custody in a divorce, Tennessee courts always look to what arrangement is in the "best interests of the child." If pursuing sole custody, especially if your former spouse disagrees, it's important to know what factors the court will consider when making this determination. Factors include the "love, affection and emotional ties" between parent and child; each parent's ability to provide for the child and extent to which the parent has been the child's primary caregiver; stability of the parent's family unit; and parent's willingness to "facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship" between the child and other parent.

Child Support

Once awarded sole custody of your child, you are entitled to child support from your child's other parent. Your former spouse is not absolved of his responsibility to contribute to the care and support of your child simply because he was not granted custody. In general, as part of the divorce decree, the court will establish a child support award in accordance with Tennessee's child support guidelines, which require noncustodial parents to contribute a portion of their income to custodial parents for their child's "suitable support and maintenance."

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Nebraska Divorce Standards for Child Custody

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Child Custody Options in Iowa

In Iowa, as in most states, child custody issues must be resolved before the court can issue a divorce decree. Depending on the circumstances of your case, the court may establish a sole or joint custody arrangement. For example, if you and your spouse get along and work well together, the court is likely to grant decision-making authority to both of you. This means you both have a say in your child's upbringing, such as where he goes to school and what extracurricular activities he participates in.

Separate Legal Responsibilities of a Parent for a Child in Ohio Divorce Law

In Ohio, custody is known as "parental rights and responsibilities" and covers everything from where your child lives to who has authority to make decisions concerning her welfare. As in other states, these rights and responsibilities may be shared between parents or held solely by one parent. During the divorce proceedings, the court will allocate parental rights and responsibilities based on the best interests of your child. Once the divorce decree is issued, this arrangement will be legally binding on both you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse.

Rights of a Sole Custodial Parent

Divorcing parents often fight hardest over child custody, and you may ask the court for sole custody of your child. Child custody laws vary somewhat by state, but courts have flexibility to divide custody in a way that is in the best interests of your child. If this means you receive sole custody, you will have more rights than if you shared custody with your ex-spouse.

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