Family law judges in Tennessee and around the country are guided by what they think is in the child's best interests when they make custody decisions, and this sometimes involves considering the standard of a parent's living conditions. Parents who do not live in brand new and pristine apartments or houses may still be awarded custody, but judges may be reluctant to place children in homes if they could find it difficult to adjust to their new environment, the home or the surrounding area is dangerous, or the accommodations do not provide enough privacy.
Safety will generally be a judge's primary concern, and custody may not be awarded even if the home is safe if the neighborhood is not. This is why parents who will be seeking custody of young children may be wise to check crime statistics before renting or buying a home. Privacy may become an issue if the home has only one bathroom that must be shared by boys and girls or the child will be sharing a bedroom with a far younger or far older sibling.
Determining whether or not a child will be able to adjust to new surroundings can be especially difficult for judges. While judges may be unlikely to deny custody because the child's new home would not be as lavish as their current or former accommodations, they may be hesitant to place children in situations that would make it difficult to see their friends or require them to change schools.
Experienced family law attorneys may seek to avoid bitter custody disputes in divorce cases by reminding parents that they should focus on the child's needs instead of their own. This could also help the parties to find common ground and lay a foundation for amicable and productive spousal support and property division talks.