Custody, Visitation and Parenting Time- a Quick Guide to Tennessee’s LawsIf you had the inclination, you could read through the entire Tennessee Code to learn the laws regarding divorce and custody. But if you’re going through a divorce, the chances are you have enough on your plate already. Besides, that’s why folks like me are here; we studied the laws and earned our degrees so that you’d have someone on your side looking out for your best interests. And trust me when I tell you, you want a Maryville divorce attorney like me to help you when it comes to child custody issues.

Almost nothing can turn divorce proceedings from amicable to nightmarish like a disagreement about custody. But what is custody, exactly? And how exactly does it work? Let’s start with some basic definitions used by the courts, so you’ll know what to expect:

  • Primary residential parent. The PRP is the one with whom the child resides most of the time, if not all of the time. This person used to have something called “Sole custody,” but that term went away (legally, at least) about 15 years ago. Even if both parents split their parenting time (see below) equally, one parent must be designated the primary residential parent.
  • Alternative residential parent. If you are not the PRP, you’re the ARP.
  • Parenting time/ residential time. This is sort of like the old-school “visitation,” but it applies to both parents, whereas visitation only applied to the non-custodial parent. In Tennessee, the courts believe that both parents should be involved in their children’s upbringing, and creating designated parenting time for both of those parents is key.
  • Parenting plans. Parents who wish to divorce must create a parenting plan, which outlines how they will care for their children. Parenting plans discuss everything from the religion their children will be raised with, to the amount of parenting time each parent agrees to1, to who makes decisions regarding healthcare – and everything in-between. Most people referred to this as “legal” custody – i.e., legal decision-making – and it could be granted to one parent (sole custody) or to both parents (joint custody).

Understanding the differences in these terms is important because you might hear any or all of them in a courtroom. A lot of attorneys (and some judges) still use the outdated terms, and it can be pretty confusing when you’re just starting the process.

In the end, the smart move is to work with an experienced family law attorney who can advise you on the parenting plan, and can help you navigate the system. As a mediator, I’ve seen my fair share of amicable divorces become pretty ugly over issues regarding parenting time and custody, and I know how to help you resolve those issues quickly and smoothly.

If you’re struggling to find the best future for your kids, please contact my law firm, Shepherd and Associates, P.C. by filling out this contact form or by calling 865.225.9655. As an experienced Maryville divorce attorney who protects your interests and your children’s. I invite you to contact me to find out more.



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