Custody matters can be highly stressful–for you and your child. There are so many unknowns, and we know that complex legal codes and terms make the process that much harder. You certainly don’t need to know all of the details. However, we do think it’s important that parents understand what the judge considers when determining custody. Whether you’re dealing with a custody matter now or worried you might face custody issues in the future, this breakdown is for you.
During a custody hearing, the judge considers what are called “Best Interest Factors” (listed under Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-6-106). The descriptions of these factors are dense and often confusing. To give you some clarity, our legal team summarized each of the 15 factors below.
So, what does a judge look for in a custody case?
- The strength, nature, and stability of the child’s relationship with each parent, including whether one parent has performed the majority of daily parenting responsibilities
- Each parent’s past & potential for future performance of parenting responsibilities, including their willingness to facilitate a relationship between the child and both of the child’s parents
- Refusing to attend a court-ordered parent education seminar may be considered by the court as a lack of good faith effort in these proceedings
- The parent’s ability to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, education, etc.
- The degree to which a parent has been the primary caregiver (defined as the parent who has taken the greater responsibility for performing parental duties)
- The love, affection, and emotional ties existing between each parent and the child
- The emotional needs and development of the child
- The moral, physical, mental, and emotional fitness of each parent – **Note: The court may order an examination of one or both parties
- The child’s relationships with siblings, other relatives, and mentors, as well as the child’s social involvement (for example, school participation and extracurricular activities)
- The importance of continuity in the child’s life and the length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment
- Evidence of physical or emotional abuse to the child, to the other parent, or to any person (when appropriate, the court will refer issues of abuse to juvenile court)
- The character & behavior of any other person who resides in (or frequents) the home
- The reasonable preference of the child if twelve years of age or older–the court may hear the preference of a younger child upon request, but preference of older children will usually be given greater weight than those of younger children
- Each parent’s employment schedule (the court may choose to make accommodations)
- Other factors deemed relevant by the court depending on the details of your case
Some Final Thoughts & Resources Related To Custody Cases:
This breakdown is simply for reference. An attorney that specializes in family law will be best equipped to explain your options and guide you through the custody process. Our attorneys have assisted in countless custody cases involving one or both of the parents, including adoptive parents. They also have experience working with parents that are active duty. Regardless of your specific circumstances, an initial consultation is your best next step.
For additional updates and information on our local court, their departments, as well as our elected officials, visit the Montgomery County Circuit Court Clerk website.