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Changes in Tennessee Law Regarding Parent Relocation:

In July of 2018, the Tennessee statute which governs relocation of a parent with a minor child was amended. After custody or co-parenting has been established by the entry of a permanent parenting plan or final order, a parent who wishes to relocate outside the state or more than fifty (50) miles from the other parent within the same state, must send notice to the non-relocating parent at least sixty (60) days prior to moving with the child.

The notice requirements under the statute remain the same. The notice must contain: "(1) a statement of intent to move; (2) location of proposed new residence; (3) reasons for proposed relocation; and (4) statement that absent agreement between the parties or an objection by the non-relocating parent within thirty (30) days of the date notice is sent by registered or certified mail in accordance, the relocating parent will be permitted to do so by law." Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-6-108.

Under the previous statute, the law was different depending on whether the parent spent equal intervals of time with the child. If the parents were spending substantially equal intervals of time with the child and the parent who was relocating sought for the child to move with them and the non-relocating parent objected, the non-relocating parent had the option of filing a petition in opposition to removal of the child within thirty (30) days of receipt of notice and then the court would determine whether relocation was in the best interest of the child. The court would do so without providing a presumption in favor of or against the request to relocate. However, if the parents were not spending substantial amounts of time together and the non-relocating parent objected, the burden was placed on the relocating parent who spent the greater amount of time with the child.

If the parent who was spending the greater amount of time with the child proposed to relocate with the child, the non-relocating parent had the option of filing a petition in opposition to relocation of the child within thirty (30) days of receipt of notice. The parent spending the greater amount of time with the child must be permitted to relocate unless the court finds or the relocating parent cannot disprove that: "(1) the relocation does not have a reasonable purpose; (2) the relocation would pose a threat of specific and serious harm to the child that outweighs the threat of harm to the child of a change of custody; or (3) the parent's motive for relocating with the child is vindictive in that it is intended to defeat or deter visitation rights of the noncustodial parent or the parent spending less time with the child." Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-6-108.

While the time limits and geographical restrictions remain the same, there have been substantial changes to the Tennessee statute that governs relocation. The most significant change is that the statute no longer distinguishes between parents who spend greater or lesser time with the child. The statute treats both parents the same, stating "a parent who is spending intervals of time with a child," giving no deference to the amount of time spent with the child. In other words, as long as a parent is spending some interval of time with the child, it does not matter if it's greater than or less than the other parent's time spent with the child.

Now, under the current law, if the non-relocating parent files a petition in opposition to relocate, the court will determine whether relocation is in the best interest of the minor child. When determining best interest, the court will consider the following factors: "(1) the nature, quality, extent of involvement, and duration of the child's relationship with the parent proposing to relocate and with the non-relocating parent, siblings, and other significant persons in the child's life; (2) the age developmental state, needs of the child, and the likely impact the relocation will have on the child's physical, education, and emotional development, taking into consideration any special needs of the child; (3) the feasibility of preserving the relationship between the non-relocating parent and the child through suitable visitation arrangements, considering the logistics and financial circumstances of the parties; (4) the child's preference, if the child is twelve (12) years of age or older. The court may hear the preference of a younger child upon request. The preference of older children should normally be given greater weight than those of younger children; (5) whether there is an established pattern of conduct of the relocating parent, either to promote or thwart the relationship of the child and the non-relocating parent; (6) Whether the relocation of the child will enhance the general quality of life for both the relocating parent and the child, including, but not limited to, financial or emotional benefit or educational opportunity; (7) the reasons of each parent for seeking or opposing the relocation; and (8) any other factor affecting the best interest of the child." Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-6-108.

If you are hoping to relocate with your child or do not believe it is in the best interest of your child to relocate with the other parent, it is important to consult with an attorney who can guide you through the process. It is necessary that you are informed of the legal issues, notice requirements, time limits, and other factors, that if not properly followed, can result in an unfavorable outcome.

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