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.

What To Know About Changing & Challenging Child Custody

Specific laws and procedures govern child custody issues. When parents agree to modify an existing custody order, the process is fairly simple. Greater difficulty arises, however, when parents do not agree to proposed changes.

In all custody cases, the overlying concern is the best interest of the child. To have your request granted by the court, you must be able to demonstrate that the order you seek or the modifications you request will benefit the child and serve his/her best interests.


Depending on the state where the custody order originates, there may be a minimum period of time that must pass before a modification can be pursued. Even if your state does not have a specific waiting period, courts are often wary of requests to modify in cases where an order has been in effect for only a short amount of time.

Reason For Change

If your situation does meet the requirements for modification, you will need a good reason to justify the requested changes. In order for any modification request to be considered by the court, the change must meet the standard of a material change in circumstances and this standard must be shown.

The material change in circumstances standard allows consideration of a broad array of evidence. Examples of evidence that may be meet this standard would include a long-distance move, change in living conditions, issues with the child’s development, and many other situations.

Requested Change & Custody Order

If a material change in circumstances has been shown to the court, the parent requesting modification must also show that the requested change is in the best interest of the child and requires presentation of evidence to support that claim. Family law attorneys will be familiar with the types of evidence that can be used to demonstrate the best interest standard.

Receiving a custody order or modification of a custody order requires compliance with specific rules and procedures. Typically it includes filing papers that contain specific information and adhere to formatting rules. Compliance with these procedures and rules can be overwhelming for those who are unfamiliar with the process.

An experienced family law attorney will be able to advise you about the time restraints on custody modifications. Be sure to consult with an attorney and seek out representation to assist you with throughout process in order to achieve a successful change request.

How You Are Sabotaging Your Divorce

It is no secret that the divorce process is incredibly difficult and often heartbreaking. When times get tough, otherwise-rational minded people can overreact, or act in a way that proves detrimental to the process. We know how overwhelming the entire process is, so we have highlighted a few behaviors to be aware of when you are navigating the rough waters of divorce.

They are:

Watch Your Words

As the old adage goes,”If you cannot say something nice, do not say anything at all.” With the ease of today’s modern technology, you never know when your ex is recording your interactions. It is very common to have recorded conversations brought out during divorce proceedings, and if you have spoken harshly — out of frustration or anger — your words can be used against you in the future.

Getting Physical

Always keep your hands to yourself. If you make physical contact against your soon-to-be spouse, particularly if it is harmful or aggressive, you are committing a crime. The physical interaction may be considered battery or assault, both of which will prove detrimental for your case. No matter how upset you get throughout the divorce process, you will never have a judge side with you if you are physical with the other person.

Moving Too Fast

Refrain from moving too fast into a new relationship. Aside from allowing yourself time to heal, moving in with a new boyfriend or girlfriend before the divorce is finalized is frowned upon. Children have a difficult time when their parents go through a divorce. It is hard for them to understand that their parents no longer love each other in the same way, and that they will no longer be living together as a family. Moving in with a significant other only adds insult to injury, where time can provide everyone the chance to settle and move forward.

Child Support

No matter how angry you are at your spouse, failing to pay child support ultimately hurts the child and, in turn, your divorce. The law demands child support is paid; failing to do so is considered contempt of court. If the judge finds you are in contempt, you can be fined or put in jail.

Removing Your Child

If you have a planned trip away, it is necessary to coordinate the dates and travel with your spouse. It will be viewed as an attempt at kidnapping if you leave the area with your child without making a prior arrangement with your ex. It is also likely your restricted visitation with the child, or your custody, will be terminated.

It is important to consult with a professional divorce attorney to determine the behaviors you should, and should not, undertake while filings and proceedings are underway. When it doubt, remember it is better to be safe than to be sorry.

Who Is Responsible for Child Support in Tennessee?

For those living in Tennessee, it can be confusing to understand the laws revolving around child support. Child support is the act of sending money to the primary care provider of a child who is biologically your own. Child support is crucial for the care and necessities that a child needs such as food, clothing, educational needs and more.

Understanding the child support laws in the state of Tennessee can help you better determine what is required of you, and how to challenge your child support ruling if you feel you are over or under paying a child support amount.

Paying Child Support

The person who has either fathered or mothered a child and does not have primary custody is the one responsible for paying child support. For example, if you have a child who lives full-time with their mother or father and you do not have any time with that child or very little time, the judge will deem you responsible for aiding in the care of the minor child through monetary means to support the finances of the primary parent.

Estimated Payments

Payments made to child support are estimated using a variety of tools. For one, your income and salary will be taken into account to see how much you are able to afford. The overall cost of the care of the child is also taken into account and mutually; this will estimate the amount of child support that needs to be paid each month.

Challenged Payments

In Tennessee, if you are required to pay child support, you can challenge the cost of what you pay, or challenge having to pay for child support altogether. If you doubt paternity, a basic medical test can be done to ensure that the child you are paying child support for is biologically your own.

If you struggle to afford the amount ordered, you can challenge the child support total you pay by providing accurate data and information on your own living costs. By showing proof of your finances, you may be able to lower the cost of child support if it is deemed you cannot afford the current amount. This is all done in a court of law in the state of Tennessee.

It is important to seek counsel when dealing with matters of child support. A lawyer will be able to help you outline a strategy for any challenges you need to make and educate you on the inner workings of child support cases in the state of Tennessee.