Child custody and child support standards

Child custody and child support laws in each state are nuanced and unique, but generally speaking, the child support and child custody laws of every state share certain things in common. Among these commonalities is the goal of protecting children caught in the middle of a divorce and a custody battle. The laws dealing with child custody and child support in each state, including Tennessee, are designed to operate in the child's best interests.

Considerations in determining child custody

A court will consider a number of factors when making determinations about child custody. It is important to know that there are two types of child custody: physical custody and legal custody.

Legal custody pertains to a parent's legal authority to make decisions for his or her child, including decisions relating to education, health care and religion. Legal custody is awarded to a parent who is deemed by a court to be deserving of a legal right to consult with the other parent as to the needs and interests of the child. There is a general trend towards awarding joint legal custody to both parents, so that each parent will be able to play an active role in the child's upbringing.

Physical custody on the other hand concerns how much time a child will spend with each parent. In some cases, joint physical custody can be granted to both parents, such that the child will spend equal time with either parent. Often times, however, one parent is awarded sole or primary physical custody, while the other parent is granted liberal visitation rights.

When making child custody determinations, family court judges typically consider a number of factors. The factors include the overall relationship between the child and each parent, the mental and physical health of each parent, the child's preference if old enough to be reasonable, each parent's ability to provide for the child, the child's track record, whether a history of abuse exists and the cooperativeness of either parent.

Child support determinations

Tennessee law provides that child support will be granted to a parent with physical custody of a child based on the "Income Shares" Model. Under this model, a child is entitled to the same proportion of parental income that he or she would have received had the parents decided to remain married.

In addition to child support, a court may require one or both parents to pay some or all of the health insurance costs associated with the child, as well as require that the parents pay their pro rata share of any medical expenses not covered by insurance.

Contact an experienced family law attorney

Trying to understand how a family court judge will determine child custody and child support can be overwhelming. A family law attorney understands the factors judges consider and know how to present evidence persuasively. If you have questions about child custody or child support, contact a family law attorney in your area.