In recent decades, more and more fathers who are divorced or separated from their spouses have been trying to play a more meaningful role in their children’s lives. In many cases, that translates into efforts to get expanded visitation rights.
As part of a divorce or legal separation, Tennessee parents must establish a parenting plan that addresses their children’s needs (and recognizes that those needs will change over time). The parenting plan must also clarify each parent’s rights and responsibilities toward the child. In cases where parents cannot reach an agreement regarding custody, a court will make the final determination.
Parenting plans must address both physical and legal custody. “Legal custody” refers to a parent’s right to make decisions regarding a child’s education, health care, religion, and other similar broad issues that are part of child-rearing. “Physical custody” refers to the child’s day-to-day living situation. While parents may share both physical and legal custody after separation, custody may also be granted to only one parent—or one parent may be deemed the primary custodial parent, while the other is granted visitation.
Visitation refers to the amount of time that the child spends with the parent who is not the primary custodial parent (including overnight visits, and extended periods such as weeks spent with one parent during vacations). In determining the amount of visitation to be granted in a particular case, Tennessee courts must consider a wide array of factors, including (but not limited to)
- the strength and stability of the relationship that already exists between the child and the parent
- the extent to which the parent has participated in the daily child-rearing activities
- the parent’s willingness and ability to promote a strong relationship between the child and the other parent
- the parent’s ability and efforts to provide for the child’s needs (food, clothing, medical care, etc.)
- the child’s developmental level
- the parent’s character and physical and emotional ability to parent effectively
- the parent’s employment schedule.
Fathers who seek a substantial amount of visitation must therefore bring compelling evidence regarding each of the factors that a judge must address. In addition, custody orders may be modified, at either parent’s request, if substantial changes develop in the parents’ circumstances, affecting the children. An effective and experienced Tennessee attorney can help fathers gather key evidence in order to make a compelling case for expanded visitation or for the modification of a current parenting plan.
In Tennessee, unmarried fathers have rights to custody and visitation as well, once they establish their parentage according to Tennessee law.
If you are a Tennessee father in the process of creating or evaluating a proposed parenting plan, seeking to establish parentage, or hoping to modify an existing court order regarding visitation, please contact the Hartsoe Law Firm as soon as possible. Serving clients throughout Blount County, Attorney Mark C. Hartsoe works hard to ensure that good fathers maintain and strengthen their relationship with their children, even after divorce or separation.
To schedule an initial confidential consultation regarding visitation issues in Blount County, please contact us today by calling (865) 524-5657, or filling out and submitting our online “Contact Us” form.