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Parenting plans and Tennessee law: 3 things to know

Parents going through a divorce need to put together a parenting plan. This plan helps to outline how the parents will share the responsibilities that come with raising children as well as how the parents will share time with their children.

The court will not allow parents to finalize a divorce without a permanent parenting plan.

Tennessee state law provides parents with certain basic rights. It can help to have an understanding of these expectations before diving into the parenting plan. These rights include the right to talk to their child, either in person or through a phone call, at least twice per week, the right to send mail with the expectation that the other parent will not destroy the mailing, the right to receive 48 hours notification of extracurricular activity events and educational records from the child’s school, the right to notification in the event the child is hospitalized or suffers a major illness, and the right to receive medical records.

With these basic rights in mind, three additional things to know about the parenting plan include the following.

#1: There’s a form for that

The state’s Administrative Office of the Courts put together a parenting plan form. The Permanent Parenting Plan Order Form is completed and either proposed by one party, ordered by the court, or agreed to by both parties. It outlines the amount of time spent with each parent, the day-to-day schedule, and how the parents will split time during the holidays.

It is important to note that claiming the parents will split time in a reasonable manner is not sufficient. The court expects the parents to put forward a detailed, specific, and workable plan.

The form also provides a section for disagreements to the proposed plan or a request for a modification to an existing plan. The court encourages parents to attempt to find a resolution through mediation or arbitration before coming back to the court.

#2: A different process is used for child support

Although this form includes a section outlining financial support, the child support determination portion of the divorce proceeding is a separate conversation.

#3: The court may order supervision

Tennessee state law, as noted above, provides parents with certain rights when it comes to their children. However, in some cases, the court may deem it appropriate to agree to move away from these rights. One example is the use of supervised parenting time. To make a determination the court will look to the safety and well-being of the child. The assigned Family Service Worker or Juvenile Service Worker will meet with the parents to develop a schedule for supervised visitation. This will include a specific arrival and departure time as well as clear expectations for the behavior of all parties during the scheduled time.

The court could also require either or both parents attend a parent education class.

Needless to say, parenting plans are complex documents that have a huge impact on the future of relations between parent and child. As such, it is a good idea to have legal counsel help guide you through the process. This helps to better ensure you understand the impact of each provision within the agreement and reduces the risk of surprises after the divorce is finalized.