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Revise and thrive: Steps to update child custody arrangements in Tennessee

After a divorce, changing circumstance can lead parents to wonder about modifying their child custody arrangements. There are many situations when the courts will support a proposed change in Tennessee. To get approval, parents will generally need to consider the following.

#1: Grounds for modification

A parent requesting a modification will need to show that there is significant change in the child’s needs, living situation, or parental fitness to warrant the proposed modification. Examples can include a need to relocate, remarriage, substance abuse, or a parent’s inability to provide proper care. A failure of one parent to abide by the terms of the original order could also justify a need for a modification.

If the child is mature enough, the court may also take their preference into consideration. If applicable, the court will assess the child’s age, maturity, and reasons for the preference.

#2: Filing a petition

When filing a petition for child custody modification in Tennessee, key elements can include the following:

  • Material changes in circumstances: The petitioner must provide evidence to support the contention that there are grounds for the change. This could include demonstration of a significant change in circumstances since the original custody order that affects the child’s well-being in a meaningful way.
  • Best interests of the child: The court will also evaluate whether the proposed modification serves the child’s best interests. This can include a review of the physical, educational, and mental benefits for the child.
  • Burden of Proof: The parent seeking modification bears the burden of proving the material change in circumstances.

It is important for those who are navigating this process review the modification request for these main points. A failure to include this information could mean the request does not move forward.

#3: Mediation and negotiation

If the parents cannot come to an agreement on their own, the courts may require mediation. Mediation uses a neutral third party to help encourage cooperation and compromise with the goal of coming up with a plan that works for all involved.

#4: Court hearing

Litigation may result if mediation is not successful. Parents and others may testify about the changed circumstances and the child’s best interests. The judge will consider evidence, the child’s welfare, and parental fitness. Although there are no bright line rules, judicial analysis often includes the review of three questions:

(1a) Was there a significant change after the original order?

(1b) Was the change not known or reasonably anticipated at the time of the original order?

(1c) Does the change affect the child’s well-being in a meaningful way?

Based on its findings, the court may modify custody, visitation, or parenting time.

It is important to have a basic understanding of the laws at play when looking to modify child custody arrangements in Tennessee. Legal counsel experienced in this area of family law can guide you through the steps and help to protect your rights as a parent.

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