Custody Basics

Custody / Visitation

Individuals that have children together often utilize the court system to set custody and visitation schedules. Divorce cases often include child custody and visitation orders. However, not all couples that have children together were married.

The majority of child custody and visitation orders in Tennessee are held to the “best interest” standard.  This means that the custody and visitation order must be in the child’s best interest. “The best interest of the child” ensures frequent and continuous visitations between the child and both parents.

Recent changes to Tennessee law enable co-parenting arrangements that allow both parents to participate in the child’s life as much as possible. This standard ensures non-custodial parents have general visitation periods unless there are circumstances that prevent this from happening.

At Griffin & Davis, PLLC, we help parents negotiate reasonable parenting-time schedules that are fair for everyone involved. Our clients benefit from our ability to work diligently to protect their parental rights within the judicial system.

When A Parent Is Unfit

There are circumstances when a child benefits from not being around one of their parents. Typically, the court system encourages “maximum participation” from both parents with the basis that the child’s best interests are protected. Nevertheless, this is not always the case.

There are times when being around one of the parents can be detrimental to the child physically, mentally, and emotionally. These cases often involve parents with who abuse drugs or alcohol, those with anger issues, a history of sex abuse, or extensive criminal records. Other times a child should not be permitted frequent and ongoing communication with a parent are cases involving immature parenting, mental or physical illnesses or limitations, and in cases of domestic violence.

In cases where a parent has mental, physical, or criminal records, supervised visitation plans are the best option. This type of visitation schedule enables the child to have contact with the parent without the risk of being victimized. In most severe cases, the court may bar the parent from any form of visitation.

Long Distance Parenting Plan

Several court cases involve parents living in Tennessee as well as other states. These cases present unique challenges in enabling frequent and continual visitation between the child and both parents. Quite often, the court will focus on establishing visitation arrangements that are fewer and longer.

A lot of visitation schedules involving out-of-town parents provide summer vacations, holiday breaks, and visitations during other special occasions throughout the year. Long distance parenting plans are further complex when it comes to figuring out who will pay the cost for transportation. Working with an experienced attorney is an effective way to make sure the visitation schedule works for you. Contact Griffin & Davis, PLLC today to speak with a qualified and skilled attorney who can answer any questions that you may have.

Cases Of Parental Interference

Unfortunately, there are times when custodial parents falsely accuse their ex-spouse of ill behavior in an attempt to harm them or keep the children from visits with that parent. Parents that are falsely accused benefit greatly by hiring an aggressive attorney to stand up and fight to protect their rights.

The attorneys at Griffin & Davis, PLLC have extensive experience with helping parents on both ends of the argument. We work to help parents safeguard their children from any harm. In cases of interference, we help parents assert their rights to frequent and continual contact when they are falsely accused of harm.

Custodial Interference vs. Denying Visitation Rights

Unfortunately, there are several instances when parents are denied visitation with their children. Custodial parents engage in this type of refusal as a form of punishment toward the noncustodial parent. Having your parental rights violated is truly devastating. Parents often wonder if they can have the custodial parent charged criminally for their offenses or what legal remedies they have to stop it from happening. It is important to note the differences between custodial interference and denying visitation.

Under Tennessee law, custodial interference falls under the same category as kidnapping even though they are entirely different charges. When a person engages in custodial interference, they deliberately and willfully disregard a custody order. Individuals that engage in this type of criminal activity can face up to six years in prison.

When a person denies visitation rights, they are not necessarily engaging in custodial interference. Custodial interference requires the physical relocation of a child to another state in order to prevent visitation from occurring.

When a parent denies visitation, it can be devastating. Once a visitation and custody order is put in place, it is illegal for a parent to deny visitation. When a parent is denied visitation, the affected parent needs to file a request in court for relief.

If you are being denied visitations, it is crucial to keep track of all the days that your child was kept from visitation. Record the instances where you tried to pick up the child and you were denied, as well as attempts to reschedule visitation that were denied.

In cases of denied visitation, courts can enforce the visitation order or punish the parent that denies visitation by way of finding them in contempt.

Courts can modify custody and visitation orders if a parent continues to deny a parent their rights to exercise parental time with their child. In cases involving ongoing denial of visitation, judges will modify the custody order to enable the harmed parent more time with their child. In extreme cases, custody can be transferred over entirely.

If you are repeatedly denied visitation, the lawyers at Griffin & Davis, PLLC will file a petition with the court to enforce the order. We work diligently to help parents protect their rights to ensure frequent and ongoing visitation with their children.

How To Change Visitation In Tennessee

After a visitation order is made, parents can file a request to modify the order. Anyone considering a modification should ask themselves two things. First, has there been a material change in circumstance? This is not a simple yes or no question. Instead, it is important to examine this question in three parts.

  1. Did the change occur before the last order was entered into the court system?
  2. Was the change known about or anticipated at the time the last order was established?
  3. Is the change one that will affect the child’s well-being in a meaningful way?

If the change occurred before the last order, or it was an anticipated change, then your petition will likely be dismissed. If you move ahead, you will need to ask if the material change influences the child’s best interests.

In determining the child’s best interests, the court will apply ten-point listing of the factors. These enable the judge to make an order that accurately reflects the child’s best interests without any undue hardships.

When Parents Change An Order Over Time

Sometimes change is beyond a parent’s control. Quite often, children join extra-curricular activities or have medical or academic needs that change their ability to participate in visits. Sometimes a parent’s work schedule changes and affects their availability during visits.

In an ideal scenario, parents will work together to adjust the schedule so they can continue enjoying visitations while dealing with changes in their day-to-day schedules. Unfortunately, their active change in participation does not directly change the actual order. At any time, a parent is able to pull out the court order and insist that it is followed.

One of the most common questions regarding custody issues is whether you should go with the flow of co-parenting or seek a modification in the court system. Parents that have evolving schedules may benefit from an alternative residential plan in order to explore changing the parental plan. This is especially true as children grow into teens and desire more stability in having a set schedule.

Another factor to take into consideration is whether the informal changes are having an impact on the child support award. Increasing time with the alternate residential parent can result in a reduction of the child support amount that is paid.

Grandparents Rights In Tennessee

Under certain circumstances, grandparents find themselves in court fighting for their visitation rights with their grandchildren. These cases are commonly filed when a parent has died or when a parent refuses to allow them to see the children.

Grandparents with established relationships have rights to visit their grandchildren and can seek grandparent visitation in court. Although this area of law changes from time-to-time, the outcome is highly dependent upon each individual case’s circumstances.

Working with an attorney from Griffin & Davis, PLLC is the best thing you can do when fighting for grandparents rights. It is crucial for grandparents to consult with an attorney before filing a petition in order to ensure the best possible outcome in their visitation request.

Hire An Attorney To Help You Protect Your Parental Rights

If you are battling a custody or visitation case in court, the attorneys at Griffin & Davis, PLLC can help you. Our attorneys fight aggressively to protect our client’s rights during every step of the legal system. We fight vigorously to ensure parents and children are protected and able to spend time together without worrying about the other parent interrupting. We directly service Sparta, Kingston, Crossville, and Cookeville with offices in each.  Our attorneys also handle matters in the surrounding regions.  Contact our law firm today to schedule an initial consultation so we can get started on your case.