Divorce With Children

Divorces with children have an added important dimension, determining the best interests of the children moving forward. There are additional issues that need to be addressed. Unlike property division issues, which are typically addressed only at the time of the divorce, issues regarding the children may continue many years post-divorce.

Parenting Plan: A parenting plan is required in Tennessee. It is a detailed schedule of the parenting time for each parent. A parenting plan includes a residential schedule which designates where each minor child shall reside on given days. It will often allocate decision making authority to one or both of the parties regarding the children's education, health care, extra-curricular activities, and religious upbringing. Whatever the plan, each parent is involved in raising the child. The most effective co-parenting arrangements include cooperation, communication, compromise and consistency.

Child Support and Arrearages: Child support are court-ordered payments, typically made by the noncustodial parent, to support one's minor child or children. When child support is in "arrearages" it refers to an accumulation of the past child support payments that were not paid by the non-custodial parent of a child in the manner that was ordered by the court.

Forms of Custody: Some parents have 50/50 custody whereby the child or children live for a period of time with one parent, and then for a similar amount of time with the other parent. In 50/50 custody each parent has the same number of days with the child or children each year. There are also other kinds of custody:

  • Bird's Nest Custody is an arrangement whereby the parents go back and forth from a residence in which the child or children reside, placing the burden of upheaval and movement on the parents rather than the child or children. This kind of custody arrangement is not usually satisfactory for extended periods of time.
  • Joint Custody is an arrangement whereby both parents have legal custody and/or physical custody of the child or children. The amount of time each parent has with the child or children can vary.
  • Sole Custody is an arrangement whereby only one parent has physical and legal custody of the child or children.
  • Split Custody is an arrangement whereby one parent has full-time custody over some children, and the other parent has full custody over the other children.

Child Custody and Modifications: Child custody is a term which is used to describe the legal and practical relationship between a parent and his or her child, such as the right of the parent to make decisions for the child, and the parent's duty to care for the child.

Modifications are a request to the court to change an existing court order because of a material change in circumstances. A change in circumstances means something has occurred that the current parenting plan is no longer in the child or children's best interests. Some examples may include:

  • The original plan was for a 2 year old and the now the child is 10 years old;
  • One parent is moving out of state, so the existing visitation schedule is impossible;
  • There have been issues involving domestic violence; or
  • The custodial parent went to jail.