How to File a Petition for Child Custody in Tennessee

By Shannon Johnson

There are two ways to file for child custody in Tennessee: via divorce and through a petition for custody (or petition for modification of custody). There are different requirements for each method, including what you must prove to prevail. Tennessee public policy encourages a relationship between a child and both parents. Courts rarely grant sole custody to a parent without a meaningful showing as to why it is in the child's best interest.

Filing for Custody: Divorce Petition

Step 1

File your divorce petition. The divorce petition is the document that lets the court know what you are seeking. It is within the divorce complaint that you will ask for either joint or sole custody.

Step 2

Serve your spouse with the complaint and summons. The summons informs your spouse of the petition and time limit for filing an answer. Usually, you will pay the county sheriff a fee to deliver the summons and complaint to your spouse at the address you provide.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Step 3

Take the required parenting seminar. The county clerk will have information as to the location, dates and times for available seminars.

Step 4

Develop a temporary parenting plan, as encouraged by Tennessee courts. If you cannot reach an agreement, each one of you will submit a plan to the judge who will make the final determination.

Step 5

Attend pretrial mediation. If you and your spouse have not come to an agreement about custody, this is your last chance to work something out. Any issue unresolved after mediation is decided by the judge at your divorce hearing.

Filing for Custody: Modification

Step 1

Draft a petition to modify custody. Your county clerk will typically have blank pre-printed forms you may use. These forms often require you to fill in the details, but contain the specific language needed to meet the legal requirements for a change in custody.

Step 2

Serve the papers on your former spouse. You can have the sheriff's department perform the service, or do it by certified mail (return receipt requested) or regular mail. It is advised to use a method in which you can prove the other parent received notice of your complaint and summons, such as certified mail or the sheriff's service of process. If you send the modification papers via regular mail, there is no way to prove whether or not your former spouse received it.

Step 3

Attend a threshold hearing. This hearing is for the sole purpose of determining whether there has been a material change in circumstances since the existing custody order was established. For example, a parent could have become terminally ill or developed a drug addiction. Nothing will occur in the modification action until a change that affects the welfare of the child has been proven.

Step 4

Attend the final hearing, if held separate from threshold hearing. During this hearing a parent seeking to modify custody must prove the modification is in the best interest of the child. The court will consider the following major factors: emotional ties of child with parent; parental ability to provide child with necessities; stability and continuity in the child's life, mental and physical health of parents; and home, school and community record of the child.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
How to File a Motion for Child Custody in Illinois
 

References

Related articles

How to Get Child Custody If a Parent Refuses to Sign the Papers

Because child custody disputes can be contentious and stressful, family courts encourage parents to settle their disputes on their own. This not only shields the child from the stress of a custody fight, but it also allows the parents the autonomy to work out a custody plan that works with both parents' schedules and the child's needs. When one parent refuses to sign a proposed parenting plan or settle a custody dispute, however, you will need to use the court system to resolve your custody issues.

How to Apply for Sole Custody in Baltimore, Maryland

In some cases, sole legal custody or sole physical custody is in the best interests of a child. For a parent wishing to establish or modify custody in Baltimore, Maryland, the first step involves communicating to the court the specific reasons for the proposed arrangement. The other parent must then be made aware of the proceedings, and the parties can attempt to reach an agreement. If no agreement is reached, the court will make a determination based on what the judge believes is in the child's best interest.

How to Get Sole Custody in California Without a Lawyer

Ensuring that children are properly cared for when parents can no longer live together is at the forefront of every custody decision. In California, if you cannot agree on a parenting arrangement with your spouse, you may request the court award sole custody to you. In order to be successful, you must convince the court that this arrangement is in the child's best interest.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

How to Divorce & Give Up Custody

Life is full of hard choices, especially during a divorce in which property issues frequently prove less emotional than ...

How to Reverse a Sole Custody Order in Missouri

Provided the existence of certain conditions, a parent can be successful in reversing a sole custody order in the state ...

How to File for Child Custody in Ohio

In child custody proceedings in Ohio, parents must demonstrate their proposed custody arrangement is in their child's ...

How to Get Sole Custody of My Daughter in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, having sole custody may indicate that you alone have the right to make important decisions regarding ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED