For many Tennessee parents of young children, going through a divorce can be particularly difficult, especially if the parents are unfamiliar with the legal terminology that may be used during child custody determinations. There is a difference between physical custody and legal custody.
Physical custody is granted to the parent who will be responsible for providing care for the children on a regular basis. This also means that the children usually live with this parent. In the past, physical custody was usually granted by the court to the mother, with the father getting visitation rights and shared legal custody. The visitation rights were usually set forth in a schedule. Shared legal custody means that both parents have the right to make certain decisions on behalf of their children, such as those involving education, health care and religion.
Courts are now starting to move to some form of shared physical custody, and some states have enacted legislation mandating this as the default arrangement. This is due to the belief that children do better when they have ample access to both parents. However, sole or primary physical custody may still be granted if one parent has a history of domestic violence or substance abuse.
When there are children involved in a divorce, the court must make decisions that are in their best interests. Because child custody issues will last for as long as the children are minors, it is important for parents to agree on a plan that allows both of them to be involved in the children’s lives. A family law attorney can assist with negotiating the terms of such an arrangement.