If you share one or more minor children with a spouse, establishing a parenting plan is an important aspect of the divorce process in Tennessee. It mostly concerns child custody and visitation schedules and can have a significant impact on how you are planning and beginning to co-parent.
Child support negotiations and court orders are typically another part of the legal process concerning minor children if you terminate your marriage.
#1 Physical Custody and Visitation Schedule
Physical or residential custody is what most people first think of when the topic of child custody comes up. It typically involves deciding where your minor child will reside. This part of your parenting plan can also be called the “residential schedule” for your child.
Depending on how far from each other you and your spouse are planning to live, it can take many different forms. If you live close to the same town, would your child spend part of the week at one home and the other at the other parent’s.
If your child will primarily reside with one parent, you need to organize visitation schedules in your parenting plan. In addition to regular visitation to ensure that your child spends sufficient time with both parents, planning for holidays can also simplify co-parenting year-round. If you live far away from your spouse, you should account for traveling time in visitation schedules too.
Planning for what means of communication between the child and the non-custodial parent can also help you negotiate parenting time.
#2 Legal Custody
Legal custody concerns important decision-making for your minor child. Legal and physical custody arrangements do not have to be the same. Legal custody typically applies to education, religion, extracurricular activities, and healthcare. This can involve negotiating on which parent’s health insurance the child will be or what type of school they can attend according to parental preferences and responsibilities.
An important thing to remember is that even if one parent has sole legal custody of a specific matter, they should still communicate their choice to their co-parent.
#3 Setting Up Positive Co-Parenting Foundations
Negotiating civilly and respectfully with your spouse can make a positive difference for you and your children. Navigating your divorce and establishing your parenting plan is a useful opportunity to determine how you want to approach co-parenting and set solid foundations. You can model positive behaviors and interactions that show your children that you are committed to their well-being despite the termination of the marriage.
Both parties’ willingness to solve disagreements and find mutually beneficial solutions that support the emotional and financial well-being of the child can alleviate stress levels commonly associated with going through a divorce.
#4 Consider Your Child’s Preference If They Are Mature Enough
If your child is old enough to express a preference, a judge may take it into account, and you can do so as well. If your child is 12 years old or above, you may want to discuss what they would prefer in terms of living arrangements and visitation. They may have specific requests due to their schooling, extra-curricular activities, local community, and/or relationships with other relatives.
#5 Drafting a Plan That Meets Your Child’s Best Interests
The judge overseeing your divorce proceedings has the final say when it comes to child custody, child support, and any other elements of your parenting plan. They usually look at your requests based on whether they serve the child’s best interests in terms of physical, financial, emotional, educational, and social well-being. Keeping this perspective in mind when drafting your parenting plan can increase your chances of receiving a judge’s approval.
#6 Hiring a Family Law Attorney
Although Tennessee does not require that you consult an attorney if you file for divorce and/or create your parenting plan, you should always hire a reputable family law attorney in such circumstances. It can help protect your and your child’s interests even in the case of an amicable termination of the marriage. Your lawyer can leverage their in-depth knowledge of the state’s family law to offer objective advice on your proposed parenting plan. They can walk you through your available options.
Whether you and your spouse are able to negotiate a parenting plan outside of court or need to submit separate proposals and go to litigation, your lawyer can advocate for your and your children throughout the legal process. They can also address any questions or concerns you may have about how to draft a parenting plan. If you work with a child’s psychotherapist or other professionals relevant to your divorce, a lawyer can collaborate with them to simplify the process.
If you need a compassionate family law attorney to help you draft your parenting plan in Chattanooga, contact Conner & Roberts, PLLC, today at (423) 299-4489 to schedule a consultation!