Determining child custody can be the most complicated element of a divorce. Parents often worry that they will never see their children or that an ex cannot care for the kids as well as they can. Because of this, emotions often run high and parents can have a difficult time being objective and determining what is in their children’s best interests.

To alleviate some of the stress of this process, parents should understand the factors that can determine who gets custody.

Factors the courts consider

When deciding child custody, Tennessee courts focus on what is in the best interests of the child, or the factors that support the child’s emotional, physical and social well-being. Therefore, they consider:

  • The existing relationship between the child and each parent
  • The capabilities of each parent
  • Willingness to facilitate a relationship with the other parent
  • A parent’s ability to provide food, shelter, education and healthcare
  • The needs of the child
  • A child’s connections to siblings or other important family members
  • How important continuity is in a child’s life
  • Parental histories of abuse or violence
  • Preference of a child 12 or older

In general, it is in a child’s best interests to have access to and a meaningful relationship with both parents. As such, in most cases, both parents will have custody. However, in cases where such an arrangement is impossible or detrimental to a child’s safety and health, one parent may receive sole custody.

Making decisions outside of court

While the courts can make custody decisions, the preference of both the courts and many parents is to resolve custody matters outside of court. Doing so allows parents to retain more control over the outcome and attempt to reach a resolution with which both parents can be satisfied.

Parents can work with attorneys and mediators or through the collaborative system to create their own parenting plan. Parents will decide parenting time, the custody schedule and other specifications that can set the foundation for a solid co-parenting arrangement.

Prioritizing your child

It can be difficult to settle child custody matters with an ex, particularly in the context of a difficult divorce and painful emotions between parents. But no matter what the outcome may be and regardless of the process it takes to reach an agreement, parents should focus on securing an arrangement that prioritizes the child’s needs and best interests.