When Can Child Custody Be Modified in Tennessee?

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When Can Child Custody Be Modified in Tennessee?

For divorced or separated parents, life can bring changes. A custody arrangement that worked well last year may simply no longer be applicable. In Tennessee, custody/visitation can be modified if there has been a change in circumstances that materially affects the child’s well-being. Within this article, our Franklin child custody attorney provides a more comprehensive guide to the key points to know about child custody modifications in Tennessee.

Know the Law: Child Custody Can Be Modified

First and foremost, it is important to emphasize that child custody can be modified in our state. Under Tennessee law (Tennessee Code § 36-6-405), a modification is appropriate if there has been a substantial and material change in circumstances. As with other custody and visitation matters, the fundamental principle guiding these cases is that any change must be in the best interest of the child. What is best for the child always takes priority.

Parent Seeking Modification has Burden of Proof

In Tennessee, the parent seeking to modify a child custody order has the burden of proof. In effect, this means the requesting parent must clearly demonstrate the following three key things:

1. There has been a significant change in circumstances warranting the modification;

2. The change in question materially affects the child's well-being; and

3. The proposed change that the parent is seeking is in the best interests of the child.

In these cases, the court's primary aim is to ensure stability, continuity, and safety in the child's life. There is a general presumption that an existing custody/visitation arrangement is appropriate. Evidence is needed to overcome that presumption.

Note: It is far easier to get custody/visitation modified if both parents agree to the change, courts in Tennessee give parents strong deference to work out the terms of their own child custody modification if they are able to do so.

Examples of Situations that Constitute Material Change in Circumstances

What constitutes a material change in circumstances for a child in Tennessee? While it is always a case-by-case determination, here are some of the most notable examples:

● Relocation: A parent's significant move, especially out of state, that impacts the current custody arrangement or the child's access to both parents.

● Change in Living Conditions: Substantial changes in a parent's living conditions that could affect the child's safety, health, or emotional well-being.

● Parental Fitness Issues: New concerns about a parent's fitness due to issues like substance abuse, criminal activity, or neglect.

● Child's Needs: Significant changes in the child's health, educational needs, or emotional development that the current arrangement cannot adequately address.

● Violation of Custody Orders: Persistent noncompliance with the terms of the custody order by one parent.

Contact Our Tennessee Child Custody Attorney Today

At Campbell Perky Johnson, PLLC, our Tennessee child custody lawyers are committed to helping parents find the best solution for their specific situation. If you have any questions about child custody modifications, we are here to help. Contact us today for your confidential consultation. From our office in Franklin, we handle custody cases in Nashville and throughout the wider region.