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Tennessee Child Custody Laws

Child custody laws are very similar among different U.S. states, particularly since nearly every state has adopted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). However, there are slight variations in child custody laws and one area that differs is the terminology. The Act grants jurisdiction over child custody matters to the child's home state, which helps eliminate the confusion that otherwise may result from children being taken across state lines.

Tennessee child custody laws allow for joint custody and grandparents' visitation rights, while emphasizing the child's own wishes when considering custody decisions. In fact, Tennessee courts are required to state, in writing, why it's legal and why the physical custody decision is in the child's best interests. Tennessee courts are also required to provide caretakers with information regarding potential resources and funding from the Department of Child Services.

Tennessee Child Custody Laws at a Glance

While an attorney's contributions to understanding the law can't be ignored, it's certainly useful to read a plain language reference. The chart below provides a summary of child custody laws in Tennessee.


Tennessee Code Annotated:

How Child Custody Decisions Are Made in Tennessee

Unless there's an agreement between the child's parents, Tennessee family courts have the authority to award the "care, custody, and control" of children to either or both of the parents. The sole consideration in such a decision is the best interests of the child. If the court determines that a parent willfully abandoned his or her child for at least 18 months, then that parent's involvement with the child (such as visitation) will be limited.

Child Custody Factors in Tennessee

Tennessee courts consider the following factors for custody decisions:

  • The child's wishes/preferences provided that they are mature enough to make such claims;
  • The child's stability regarding their current home, school, and community, and whether a change will disrupt that stability;
  • The child's ability to adjust to their school, community, and home;
  • The parents' capability to provide for the child's needs (education, religious training, food, shelter, health care);
  • The parents' parenting skills and willingness to encourage and foster a continuing relationship between the child and the other parent;
  • Any history of domestic violence, child abuse, negligence, or substance abuse;
  • The mental or physical health of the parties involved;
  • The custodian's willingness to comply with a new custody arrangement or visitation schedule; and
  • The testimony provided by any party, or by the court itself, who can testify what's best for the child.

Child Relocation

If a parent plans to move more than 100 miles, they must give notice to the other parent 60 days prior to the move. The notice must include the following:

  • A statement of the intent to move;
  • The address of the new location;
  • The reasons for the relocation; and
  • A statement that the other parent may object to the move within 30 days.

The court will consider the following:

  • The importance of continuity in the child's life, considering the stability of the child's current home, school, and community;
  • Whether the primary residential parent (PRP) will comply with a new custody and visitation schedule; and
  • The child's preference, if the child is of an age and maturity level to make an informed decision (age 12 or older).

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Tennessee Child Custody Laws: Related Resources

Get Professional Legal Help With Your Tennessee Custody Case

Child custody proceedings are usually quite emotional and difficult for parents and they require legal know-how and an understanding of how to negotiate with opposing counsel. Don't leave such an important decision up to chance. If you're involved in a custody case in Tennessee, reach out to an experienced child custody lawyer near you.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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  • Custody & child visitation cases are emotional, and a lawyer can seek the best outcome
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