Tennessee receives a ‘D’ in report on shared parenting and custody laws

A report on child custody laws that support shared parenting gave Tennessee a failing grade, since state laws don’t directly promote this arrangement.

After a divorce, many parents wish to stay as involved in their children's lives as possible. It's become more common for states to recognize the benefits of shared parenting and even presume this arrangement is best for children. However, parents divorcing in Clarksville may not benefit from the same assumption. A recent report, which evaluated how well state child custody laws encourage shared parenting, gave Tennessee a 'D' on this measure.

Shared parenting provisions

The National Parents Organization issued the report in late 2014, according to The Tennessean. Each state's grade was based on an evaluation of the state's current child custody laws. States received higher grades if they explicitly required or favored shared parenting whenever this arrangement was considered feasible and safe. Tennessee received a low grade based on the following factors:

  • No language in current state laws directly promotes shared parenting or establishes it as an ideal arrangement.
  • State laws do not explicitly order or encourage shared parenting during final or temporary custody orders.
  • The state does not presume that shared parenting is in any child's best interests unless both parents support the arrangement.

The state's low grade doesn't mean that shared parenting is an impossible or unlikely outcome during Tennessee divorces. A court may order shared parenting if both parents are receptive. Parents may also agree to this arrangement, either independently or with the help of a family law mediator.

Progress for parental rights

Even if Tennessee does not explicitly encourage shared parenting, the state has taken important steps toward protecting the rights of divorced parents. In 2014, the Parental Bill of Rights was updated to give non-custodial parents the right to receive medical records in a timely manner. These parents may also request school reports, such as report cards and attendance records. Additionally, non-custodial parents can now contact their children without interference or restrictions from custodial parents.

Additionally, although state laws don't directly promote shared parenting, they include one provision that facilitates this arrangement. When awarding custody, a family law judge must consider each parent's ability to include and cooperate with the other parent. This requirement indicates support for arrangements in which both parents remain involved in their children's lives.

These provisions reflect the growing support for parenting arrangements that are more fair and equal. Still, parents preparing for divorces should recognize that shared parenting is not a guaranteed outcome. Under current state laws, parents who can't agree on custody terms must prove that a shared parenting arrangement best suits the child. Otherwise, the court may presume that another arrangement is preferable and award custody accordingly.

Reaching the right arrangement

Child custody arrangements are often a confusing and contentious aspect of divorce. Considering this, divorcing parents may benefit from consulting with a family law attorney about potential custody arrangements and challenges. A family law attorney may be able to help a parent identify and pursue the arrangement that is best for the family.

Keywords: divorce, child, custody