New Child Custody Law in Tennessee

Some new legislation affecting child custody decisions took effect on July 1st in Tennessee.  I’ve previously written about the steps a court will take when developing a parenting schedule, including the factors the court must consider.  This new law modifies one of the factors found in T.C.A. 36-6-106 to read as follows (the new language is in italics):

Each parent’s or caregiver’s past and potential for future performance of parenting responsibilities, including the willingness and ability of each of the parents and caregivers to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and both of the child’s parents, consistent with the best interest of the child.  In determining the willingness of each of the parents and caregivers to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and both of the child’s parents, the court shall consider the likelihood of each parent and caregiver to honor and facilitate court ordered parenting arrangements and rights, and the court shall further consider any history of either parent or any caregiver denying parenting time to either parent in violation of a court order.

The willingness of the parents to follow prior or temporary parenting schedules has been something the judges would normally consider anyway, so this change is really just our lawmakers adopting common sense.  However, writing this into the statute changes this factor from something the judges generally consider, to something they “shall” consider when developing a parenting plan.

One thing I want to point out is I think this language can be effective in two situations.  First, sometimes you’ll see one parent withholding the children from the other, which can further intensify an already emotional situation to the detriment of the children.  The other situation that arises is the alternative residential parent will sometimes demand a large amount of scheduled visitation time, but will then refuse to accept the responsibility of caring for the children on many of the scheduled days.  In this respect some parents may find this law to be a double-edged sword.

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