Assigning Custody of a Child
Custody cases are determined by a judge who will rule by looking at what’s in the best interest of the child. The criteria for custody include the following:
- 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 home, school and community record of the child
- The reasonable preference of the child, if twelve (12) years of age or older. The court may hear the preference of a younger child on request. The preferences of older children should normally be given greater weight than those of younger children;
- Evidence of physical or emotional abuse to the child, to the other parent or to any other person; provided, that, where there are allegations that one (1) parent has committed child abuse, or child sexual abuse against a family member, the court shall consider all evidence relevant to the physical and emotional safety of the child, and determine, by a clear preponderance of the evidence, whether such abuse has occurred.
- 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 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.
- The court has jurisdiction to make an initial custody determination regarding a minor child or may modify a prior order of child custody upon finding that the custodial parent has been convicted of or found civilly liable for the intentional and wrongful death of the child’s other parent or legal guardian.
(Based on T.C.A. § 36-6-106)