Keep up with legal news and topics of interest.

Court Decisions Regarding Child Custody

January 11, 2023

Child Custody Court Decisions in TN

The end of a relationship between two parents is always a difficult and stressful time. This is especially true regarding child custody court decisions with shared children. How much time the children spend with each parent is often contentious. When an agreement cannot be reached between parents, the determination regarding custody falls to the courts. When it is clear that the Tennessee Court will make a custody determination in a case between parents, our clients often ask how the Court will make the decision. Determining how to split custody between two parents whose relationship has ended can be complicated.

Court Decisions on the Best Interest of the Child

In Tennessee, proceedings that require the court to make a custody determination regarding a minor child are decided by the Court based on the best interest of the child.[1] The best interest of the child is a judicial determination made by the Court after hearing and considering all the evidence presented to it as a part of the proceedings, and by taking into account several considerations outlined in Tennessee law. If there is an existing parenting plan, then this is the second step of a modification. See our blog post here regarding such modifications.

Parent Residence and Stability

To begin, under the best interest standard, the Court is instructed by law to order a custodial arrangement that permits both parents to enjoy the maximum participation possible in the life of the child.[2] To determine this arrangement, the Court must consider the location of the residences of the parents, the child’s need for stability, and a long list of relevant factors found in Tennessee law.[3] These relevant factors are listed and further explained below.

Factors Determining Child Custody Court Decisions

 The relevant factors considered in the best interest of the child in custody determinations include:[4]

  1. The strength, nature, and stability of the child’s relationship with each parent. This factor considers the relationship between each parent and the child separately, including whether a particular parent has performed the majority of parenting responsibilities relating to the daily needs of the child.
  2. Each parent’s or caregiver’s past and potential for future performance of parenting responsibilities. This factor takes into account the willingness and ability of each of the parents to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the child’s other parent(s), including the likelihood that each parent will honor and help facilitate court ordered parenting arrangements and rights, and any history of either parent denying parenting time to the other in violation of a court order.
  3. Refusal to attend a court ordered parent education seminar. In some cases, the court will order parents to take part in a parent education seminar, and if a parent fails or refuses to do so, the Court may consider this as a lack of good faith effort towards the proceedings on the part of the parent.
  4. The ability of each parent to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, education and other necessary care.
  5. The degree to which a parent has been the primary caregiver. Under this factor, “primary caregiver” is defined as the parent who has taken the greater responsibility for performing parental responsibilities.
  6. The love, affection, and emotional ties existing between each parent and the child.
  7. The emotional needs and developmental level of the child.
  8. The moral, physical, mental and emotional fitness of each parent as it relates to their ability to parent the child. If the Court considers it necessary, it may order an examination of a party under Rules 35 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure when considering this factor.
  9. The child’s interaction and interrelationships with siblings, other relatives and step-relatives, and mentors, as well as the child’s involvement with the child’s physical surroundings, school, or other significant activities.
  10. The importance of continuity in the child’s life and the length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment.
  11. Evidence of physical or emotional abuse to the child, to the other parent or to any other person.
  12. The character and behavior of any other people who reside in or frequent the home of a parent and how those people interact with the child.
  13. The reasonable preference of the child, provided that the child is twelve years of age or older. The court can request to hear the preference of a younger child, but the preference of older children is normally given greater weight.
  14. Each parent’s employment schedule.
  15. Any other factors deemed relevant by the court; and
  16. Whether a parent has failed to pay court-ordered child support for a period of three years or more.

To help make this determination, evidence is presented by each parent in court regarding each of these relevant factors in conjunction with the parent’s proposed custodial arrangement. Evidence regarding these factors will help the Court make their custodial determination based on what it believes is in the best interest of the child.

Contact a Child Custody Family Lawyer in Lebanon, TN

If you are considering a divorce or are experiencing the end of a relationship over share children with a partner or if you are involved in another type of proceeding where a Court will be making a custody determination about your children, our attorneys at Hagar & Phillips can help. Call us to schedule a consultation to discuss your specific circumstances and have your questions answered.

For more information about domestic relations, family law, or custody matters, you can speak with the best attorney in Lebanon, TN. Contact Hagar & Phillips for a confidential consultation at 615-784-4588.

Additional Resources on Child Custody Determinations

[1] T.C.A. § 36-6-106(a).

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] T.C.A. § 36-6-106(a)(1) – (16).


The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.