How Domestic Violence Impacts Child Custody in Tennessee

Domestic violence is a very serious issue that causes lifelong trauma for victims. The state of Tennessee, like other states, considers domestic violence when making child custody and visitation rulings. Tennessee places the best interests of the child as the top priority when reviewing child custody, which means that domestic violence offenders can have their parental rights limited, or even terminated in extreme cases of abuse.

Getting Help

The most important thing to keep in mind with domestic violence is your safety and that of your child(ren). Tennessee has domestic violence advocates and support contacts setup throughout the state. Find your county’s information. You can also seek help through an advocacy group, the Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence. 24-hour assistance is available by calling the Tennessee Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-356-6767.

Domestic Violence Crosses Gender Lines

If a person has a legally reliable history of domestic violence, it can impact future court orders on child custody and visitation. A history of domestic violence can be gender neutral. There are bad people out there of both sexes, and when domestic violence occurs in the presence of children, the likelihood of it occurring during their parenting years only increases.

Order of Protection

An order of protection prohibits an abuser from engaging in violence against you or your child for up to one year. If you have a current Protection From Abuse Order (PFA) from a court against your abuser, or if your abuser has been convicted of a felony or domestic violence misdemeanor, then Federal law states that it is illegal for your abuser to buy or have a gun in their possession.

You MUST ASK THE JUDGE to specifically write in your order that the abuser cannot buy or have a gun while the order is in effect and to require that your abuser to give any guns to the police, or require the police to go to the abuser’s house and get them. The guns then go to either the county sheriff or court clerk of stolen property. The district attorney in the county where the gun(s) was taken away can then file to have them destroyed.

Custody and Visitation

Tennessee law prohibits any ruling that would put the child at substantial risk of harm. The court will consider the severity and proximity of abuse, with more limitations placed on more recent, more harmful, and more frequent abusers.

The judge will want both parents to have as much involvement in the child’s life as possible, while protecting the child. As such, visitation with a parent found to commit child abuse may only be awarded if:

  • Supervised by a responsible adult or agency
  • The abuser completes a counseling program before visitation begins
  • Overnight visits are prohibited until a demonstrated change guarantees the safety of the child
  • The address of the child and non-abusive parent is confidential
  • Any other conditions the court thinks are necessary

The court cannot place a child in the custody of a parent who presents substantial risk of harm to the child. In cases of severe abuse, parental rights may be terminated altogether. In these cases, the decision is a permanent order.

If you have additional questions or find yourself in a legal case with domestic violence, contact me immediately to discuss your legal rights and protections.

Does An Affair Cost More In Divorce In Tennessee?

Affairs can destroy a marriage, and when it comes to divorce, they can really complicate the matter. In the state of Tennessee, adultery can be grounds for a divorce in and of itself. If you and/or your spouse are considering a divorce and an affair is a contributing factor, it’s imperative to understand how adultery can affect and impact the process.

Divorce on the Grounds of Infidelity

As previously mentioned, Tennessee recognizes adultery as a sole grounds for divorce, meaning that a judge can officially end a marriage if a spouse is able to prove that adultery took place. It’s important to know, however, that allegations are not enough; one must definitively prove that the affair occurred.

Division of Property

In most cases, even if an affair is proven, it will not affect the division of the property. Tennessee is a state that follows the rules of equitable distribution, which means that all marital assets are divided fairly. The judge will consider the needs of each spouse and the contributions he or she made to the marriage. Depending on the state, however, usually one cannot factor adultery into the division of property.

The one exception is if it is proven that one spouse used joint funds in order to support the adultery. In cases like these, the court may subtract this amount from the portion allotted to the partner in question.

Alimony

While property division is typically not impacted by adultery, the same cannot be said for alimony, or spousal support. The purpose of alimony is to ensure that the spouses are able to maintain their lifestyle after the divorce is finalized. Like property division, the court will consider the needs of the spouses and their ability to hold a job and earn their living.

While alimony is never used as a means to punish a spouse, it is possible that, in cases where it is determined that the offended spouse was so devastated as to make working harder or impossible, the judge may choose to increase the required alimony.

Defense After Adultery

While an affair can complicate the divorce process, it is not necessarily true that adultery will automatically lead the judge to dissolve the marriage. There are three possible defenses that a Tennessee resident can use in order to mitigate the damages following adultery. This includes:

  • Recrimination: in cases where both spouses had an affair, neither can use this as grounds for divorce.
  • Connivance: adultery cannot be used as grounds for divorce if the “wronged” spouse took part in encouraging the affair.
  • Condonation: reconciliation in which the wronged spouse forgives and reconciles with the unfaithful partner; if the wronged spouse claims adultery later on, the court can dismiss it.