What is Joint Custody?
In Tennessee, lawmakers understand the important role that both parents play in the lives of their children. As such, Tennessee family courts favor child custody arrangements in which parents share the responsibilities for caring for a child. These arrangements allow children to maintain stability even after divorce or separation and to maintain important relationships in their lives.
Legal and physical custody
Joint custody can refer to joint legal custody, physical custody or both. Joint legal custody means that both parents have the right to make important decisions about their children, such as decisions regarding:
Joint physical custody refers to who cares for and supervises the children on a regular basis. In joint physical custody arrangements, each parent spends a significant amount of time with the child even if not completely 50/50 time. The term “joint” refers to a more equal arrangement between the parents, as opposed to one parent having most of the parenting time or decision-making authority.
Tennessee law requires all divorcing parents to enter into a Permanent Parenting Plan. This plan establishes who has joint and legal custody of the children. It should establish a typical schedule regarding parenting time, along with plans for holidays, school vacations, summer and emergencies.
It should also establish who has final decision-making authority if the parents disagree about an important decision regarding the children. One of the parents may have final decision-making authority, or this responsibility may be shared between them. If the parents cannot overcome a disagreement, they may go through mediation or ask the court to render a final decision.
The parenting plan may also establish that one of the parents should pay child support, pursuant to the Tennessee Child Support Guidelines.
Joint custody arrangements
Parents are encouraged to enter into their own joint custody arrangements. If parents can agree to their own parenting plan, the court may not be as involved in the process. The parents can negotiate an agreement together or with the assistance of their respective lawyers. Some options for joint custody arrangements include:
Full physical custody with joint legal custody – This type of joint custody gives an equal authority to both parents to make important decisions about a child’s life. One parent is the primary residential parent while the other parent has parenting time.
Joint custody with tie-breaking authority – In this arrangement, both parents have joint legal and physical custody. However, one parent will have greater authority to make decisions pertaining to the child. This type of agreement may allow parents to make decisions that are related to the child when he or she is in their residence but allow one parent to have tie-breaking authority for an important decision with consequences, such as where the child will attend school. In other situations, a parent may have tie-breaking authority in only one area, such as if they have expertise in a particular area like a medical background.
Joint custody with a neutral mediator or arbitrator – This arrangement allows for the parents to negotiate an agreement through a neutral mediator or arbitrator so that they can each play a significant role in their child’s life and make important decisions about them. However, the parents may have minimal contact with each other and may use this forum if future decisions need to be made if the parents reach an impasse.
Contact a dedicated Middle Tennessee child custody lawyer for answers to all of your child custody questions
Before you enter into a joint custody agreement, it is important that you clearly understand your rights and responsibilities. Joint custody often requires compromise, so it is important to identify those rights you are not willing to surrender. Our experienced Murfreesboro child custody lawyers work diligently to ensure that you maintain a meaningful role in your child’s life. Contact us online or call 615-890-1982 to schedule a consultation today.