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The fundamentals of Tennessee child custody and support

Tennessee courts have specific guidelines and laws to follow when making child custody and support decisions.
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    February 20, 2014 /24-7PressRelease/ -- The fundamentals of Tennessee child custody and support

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An integral part of many Tennessee divorce and separation proceedings is a child custody determination. If parents are unable to agree upon custody, then it is up to the family court judge presiding over their case to establish custody and visitation arrangements (known in Tennessee as "parenting plans"). Making these decisions is a difficult task, and when judges have to step in, they must balance the needs of the child for stability and support with the desire of the parents to play a key role in their child's life. The judge is required to rule in the "best interests of the child."

Child custodylaws

Thankfully, judges are not tasked with making important custody and visitation decisions in a vacuum. Tennessee state laws - particularly Title 36, Chapter 6 of the Tennessee Code Annotated - provide guidance for establishing parenting plans that "permit parents to enjoy the maximum participation possible in the life of the child" while still taking heed of the child's best interests.

According to Section 36-6-106 of the Tennessee Code, some factors the court will consider include:
-Each parent's living arrangements
-Child's need for stability
-Prior relationship each parent has had with the child
-Relationship between the child and other caregivers (i.e. older siblings, grandparents, extended family, special needs providers)
-Ability of parents/caregivers to provide the child with shelter, food, clothing, medical care, educational materials and other essentials
-Physical and mental health of all parties involved
-Prior/current school performance of the child
-Length of time the child has been in a stable home environment
-The child's preference (if he or she is over 12 years of age, and sometimes if a request has been made to consider the preference of a younger child)
-Each parent's ability to parent the child

Once the judge has made a determination about the placement of the child, the level of contact the child will have with each parent and each parent's level of input into important medical, religious and educational decisions for the child, then a Permanent Parenting Plan will be issued. These parenting plans are orders from the court, and not following them could possibly lead to sanctions, modification, or even jail time if one parent refuses to allow the other access to the child.

Child support

After the custody arrangements have been made, a child support order will be issued. There is regulatory guidance for judges when it comes to making support determinations in the Rules of the Tennessee Department of Human Services' Child Support Division. The state's child support calculator is used to set a child support amount that accounts for:
-Each parent's adjusted gross income (including income, self-pay income and federal benefits received)
-Childcare costs
-Health insurance
-Extraordinary medical expenses
-The number of children involved
-Amount of time each parent spends with the children

Even though state laws offer guidance, the process of seeking custody of your child or requesting child support can be confusing and difficult for someone unfamiliar with the legal system. For help with these vitally important matters, seek the advice of an experienced Tennessee family law attorney.

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