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Tennessee Child Custody Laws

Child custody laws are very similar among different U.S. states, particularly since nearly every state has adopted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). The Act grants jurisdiction over child custody matters to the child's home state, which helps eliminate the confusion that otherwise may result from children being taken across state lines. Essentially, the UCCJEA requires states to honor child custody orders from other states in an effort to eliminate child abductions by noncustodial parents.

Tennessee child custody laws allow for joint custody and grandparents' visitation rights, while emphasizing the child's own wishes when considering custody decisions. In fact, Tennessee courts are required to state, in writing, why its legal and why the physical custody decision is in the child's best interests.

The basics of Tennessee's child custody laws are listed below. To learn more, see FindLaw's extensive Child Custody section.

Code Section 36-6-101, 102
Year Uniform Child Custody Act Adopted 1979
Joint Custody an Option? Yes, §36-6-101(a)
Grandparent Visitation Rights Recognized? Yes, §36-6-306
Child's Own Wishes Considered? Yes

Note: State laws are constantly changing. While FindLaw works hard to ensure state law pages are up-to-date, it is sometimes a good idea to also contact a Tennessee child custody attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

How Are Child Custody Decisions Made in Tennessee?

Unless there's an agreement between the child's parents, Tennessee family courts have the authority to award the "care, custody, and control" of children to either or both of the parents. The sole consideration in such a decision, however, is the best interests of the child. If the court determines that a parent willfully abandoned his or her child for at least 18 months, then that parent's involvement with the child (such as visitation) will be limited.

What are the Rights of Noncustodial Parents?

In general -- and as long as the best interests of the child are considered -- noncustodial parents in Tennessee have the following rights with respect to their child:

  • Unimpeded telephone calls at least twice a week
  • Access via mail, which the other parent may not open or censor
  • Right to receive notice of important information as soon as possible, but within 24 hours for hospitalization or serious illness
  • Right to directly access records and correspondence from the child's school
  • Right to receive medical records
  • Right to be free from derogatory remarks about family members in the child's presence
  • The right to be given at least 48 hours notice of all extra-curricular activities, such as sports and performances
  • Right to receive an itinerary when the other parent leaves the state with the child for more than two days
  • The right of access and participation in the child's education and related activities

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