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How courts may deal with custody disputes

While many Tennessee parents are able to amicably come to an agreement regarding child custody, others simply cannot agree, resulting in potentially messy child custody disputes. Courts will be guided by the best interests of the child in the event it is called upon to make these determinations.

One of the most important factors the court will consider is whether or not the parents are able to provide the child with the necessities, including food, shelter, medical care and education. Further, the parents' physical and mental health will also be considered. If there is evidence of physical, mental or emotional abuse, the court could take this information into consideration.

If the child is old enough, the court could potentially take the child's preferences into consideration during the custody dispute. Generally, judges are more likely to give weight to the requests of those who are at least 12 years of age, though a judge may hear preference from a child who is younger if it is requested. Finally, if a parent has been a consistent primary caregiver and continues to provide a stable relationship with the child, the court may choose to continue this arrangement to some degree.

In most cases, courts understand the importance of allowing both parents to maintain a relationship with their child in the event of a divorce. While one parent may be considered the child's primary caretaker, a parenting plan that schedules time with the other parent can help keep relationships strong. An attorney can negotiate a parenting plan with the other party to ensure that the parent who is not the primary caregiver can still spend some important holidays and vacation time with the child.

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