Child Custody & Visitation

When a couple decides to divorce, one of the most difficult decisions they face is how to determine appropriate levels of child custody and visitation. Tennessee law promotes the best interests of the child with that commitment taking precedence over the wishes of either parent. But a skilled family law attorney like Amanda Thornton can assist in creating ways for both parents to maintain roles in a child’s upbringing and development — and for the child to receive the stability and structure that he or she needs.

Child Custody

Custody grants one or both parents the right to make major decisions concerning your child’s upbringing. Major decisions can include consent to marry before age 18, consent to enter military service before age 18, consent to obtain a driver’s license, authorization for nonemergency health care, and choice of school and religion. The determination of whether custody should be sole or joint is based on the best interest of the child with a presumption that joint custody is usually best for the child.

The court may award custody to either parent, or to both parents in the case of joint custody or shared parenting based on the best interests of the child, taking the following factors into consideration [Based on Tennessee Code – Title 36, Sections 36-6-106]:

  • The love, affection and emotional ties existing between the parents or caregivers and the child;
  • The disposition of the parents or caregivers to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, education and other necessary care and the degree to which a parent or caregiver has been the primary caregiver;
  •  The importance of continuity in the child’s life and the length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment;
  • The stability of the family unit of the parents or caregivers;
  •  The mental and physical health of the parents or caregivers;
  •  The home, school and community record of the child;
  • The reasonable preference of the child, if twelve (12) years of age or older;
  • Evidence of physical or emotional abuse to the child, to the other parent or to any other person;
  • The character and behavior of any other person who resides in or frequents the home of a parent or caregiver and the person’s interactions with the child;
  • Each parent’s or caregiver’s past and potential for future performance of parenting responsibilities, including the willingness and ability of each of the parents and caregivers to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and both of the child’s parents, consistent with the best interest of the child.


Akin to child custody is child visitation. That is to say Tennessee law focuses on the best interests of the child  regarding visitation just as the law applies to child custody . Once it is determined who will be the primary residential parent, a visitation schedule must be established.  Courts look at the facts of each case and consider many of the same factors used in determining primary custody.  Factors such as the child’s relationship with each parent, the child’s home situation and, if the child is old enough, the child’s wishes will all be evaluated in relation to parenting time with the alternate residential parent based on Tennessee Code – Title 36, Sections 36-6-301

In both these very important matters regarding a divorce obtaining experienced counsel is imperative for you to realize the proper remedy as it relates to child custody and visitation.  With many years of experience and a successful track record in family law Ms. Thornton’s successful track record of negotiating and litigating these and a other family law issues with passion and competency that producess results.


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