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What Rights Do Non-Custodial Parents Have in Tennessee?

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Why is it Crucial to Know Your Rights as a Non-Custodial Parent?

Navigating child custody arrangements after a divorce can be challenging for both parents. If your child spends less time with you than the other parent, it may feel like you are being left out of critical conversations or decisions about your child’s upbringing. Knowing and understanding your rights as a non-custodial parent can help you recognize which situations are to be expected and which may violate your parental rights. This information can help you avoid unnecessary conflicts and allow you to identify and stand up against inappropriate actions. If you have questions about your parental rights, it is essential to contact a trusted Tennessee child custody lawyer today to get the most up-to-date information on the law and your options for handling disagreements.

What is a Non-Custodial Parent?

In recent years, Tennessee and many other states have moved away from using the terms “custody” and “custodial” to officially describe a parent’s role in their child’s life. However, many people, including lawyers, may revert to the older terms out of habit and familiarity.

The new terminology you will likely hear in court and your parenting agreement is as follows:

  • Primary Residential Parent (PRP): The parent who has the child physically living with them the majority of the time.
  • Alternate Residential Parent (ARP): Previously referred to as the “non-custodial parent,” this is the parent who is not the PRP. 
  • Parenting time: Instead of referring to the time a parent spends with their child as “visitation,” it is now called parenting time in legal proceedings to ensure a focus on the child’s needs and well-being.

Even in joint parenting situations, a PRP and an ARP will be designated for legal purposes. In all parenting arrangements, while the child is physically with either parent, that parent is responsible for making decisions on day-to-day topics. The right to have the final say on significant, long-term decisions is often designated by the court or your parenting agreement. However, both parents are encouraged to work together on these issues whenever possible.

Note that decision-making rights may be split differently than residential parenting rights. For example, the ARP may be the decision-maker regarding the child’s religious upbringing and health care, while the PRP makes decisions about education and extracurriculars. The court may determine your parenting role after your divorce, or you may be able to mediate a parenting agreement with the help of a lawyer to ensure your desired involvement in your child’s life.

What Rights Are Afforded to a Non-Custodial Parent in Tennessee?

Whether you are the ARP or the PRP, you have rights when it comes to participation in your child’s upbringing. Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-6-101 outlines the fundamental rights for both parents that the state believes are key to fostering a healthy parent-child relationship. These rights may only be curtailed if the court has ruled that denying or limiting a specific right is in your child’s best interests or if your finalized parenting plan handles the topic differently. 

By law, an ARP (non-custodial parent) in Tennessee has the following rights:

  • Twice weekly, unimpeded phone conversations with their child that are scheduled at a reasonable time and last for a suitable duration.
  • The ability to send mail to their child that will not be opened or censored by the other parent.
  • The right to receive prompt health information about their child within 24 hours of a hospitalization, severe illness, or death.
  • The right to request and receive copies of their child’s school records, including test scores, class schedules, and other documents typically available to parents.
  • The right to request and view the child’s medical and treatment records.
  • The right to be free of derogatory remarks about themselves or their family members made by the other parent to or in the presence of their child.
  • The right to receive 48 hours’ notice, whenever practical, of extracurricular activities such as athletics, church functions, or other events so they can attend or participate as appropriate.
  • The right to receive a detailed itinerary and emergency contact information if the other parent takes their child on an out-of-state trip for two days or more.
  • The right to access and participate in the child’s education and activities, including lunch visits and other events, as long as they do not interfere with the child’s day-to-day functioning or school performance.

What Can You Do if You Believe Your Parental Rights Have Been Violated?

The courts recognize that it is crucial for a child’s welfare to have positive interactions with both parents throughout their childhood, and they will take steps to encourage and protect these relationships unless there is a strong reason not to. The other parent cannot legally limit your parenting time or deny you contact with your child as retaliation for unpaid child support or other issues. It is crucial to advocate for your rights if you believe the other parent is inappropriately restricting your ability to play an active role in your child’s life.

A Tennessee child custody lawyer can evaluate your situation and advise you on your next steps. Sometimes, the matter can be resolved through communication or mediation, but the court may need to be involved if a resolution cannot be reached.

How Can an Experienced Child Custody Lawyer Assist You?

Child custody issues are often fraught with emotion. The stakes are high when it comes to establishing your level of involvement in your child’s life after a divorce. It is important to remember that you have certain rights that are guaranteed by state law, even as a non-custodial parent (ARP). A skilled Tennessee child custody lawyer from the Law Office of Hibbeler & Associates can help uphold these rights. Whether you are newly divorced and seeking to create an agreeable parenting plan or you are experiencing difficulties getting the other parent to honor your agreement and rights, our lawyers can provide knowledgeable legal guidance. Contact our firm today at 931-236-2711 to schedule a free 30-minute evaluation to learn more about your legal options.

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