When the parents of a child divorce, the court determines who the child will live with. In some cases, it’s a 50/50 custody arrangement where both parents get equal time with their child. In other cases, a parent may get weekend custody of their child once per week or only a couple of times per month.

These arrangements are made by considering all factors and determining what’s best for the child at the time of the divorce. However, the factors that led to initial custody arrangements aren’t always factors months or years later. When circumstances change, one or both parents may want the custody arrangements to be changed.

Thankfully, child custody arrangements can be changed in Tennessee. If you want to change your child custody arrangements, here’s what you need to know about the process.

Why Are Child Custody Arrangements Changed?

There are many reasons that child custody arrangements may change, including:

  • Moving closer to or further away from the child
    Custody arrangements may change if a parent physically relocates to be closer to or further away from their child. For example, a parent who lived 3 hours away from their child when the custody arrangement was issued may ask for additional weekend custody if they relocate to be much closer to their child. On the other hand, custody may be reduced if the previously close parent moves several hours away.
  • Refusal to follow the custody arrangements
    The court also may change a custody arrangement if one parent refuses to follow the custody terms of the divorce. These terms include returning the child to the other parent’s residence at an agreed-upon time and date every week/month and telling the other parent if and when they take the child on out-of-town or out-of-state trips. When these terms habitually go unmet, the court may either reduce or revoke the non-compliant parent’s custody.
  • Changing needs of the child
    As children age, their needs change, and so can the custody arrangements their parents have for them. For example, a parent may be awarded additional custody rights if they can demonstrate that they can provide their child with better educational, extracurricular, or athletic opportunities and growth than the primary custodial parent. They also may receive additional custody if they can demonstrate their ability to care for a child who is struggling with a mental, emotional, or physical disorder.
  • Changing circumstances of the parent
    A parent’s life can change dramatically during their child’s life, and for that reason, they may be able to successfully request a custody modification. For example, a parent who had an unstable living situation and substance abuse problems at the time of their child’s birth may find stable employment, purchase a home, and achieve many years of sobriety by the time their child is in elementary school. Dramatic lifestyle changes can result in more favorable custody arrangements.
  • Child endangerment
    Custody arrangements are created based on the child’s best interests, and there are few things more important to the court than a child’s safety. If a parent is engaging in behaviors that can put their child at risk, such as:
    • physical, sexual, or emotional abuse;
    • intentionally or negligently putting the child at risk of abuse by others;
    • drug or alcohol abuse that harms the child or creates a negative influence on them;
    • suffering from mental health problems, including dangerous and erratic behavior;

their custody privileges may be reduced or revoked.

How Are Child Custody Arrangements Changed?

The only way to modify a child custody arrangement is to submit a petition to modify to the court. This petition must contain the parent’s proposed modifications to the current child custody arrangement and terms.

If both parents agree on the modification of the terms and the court believes the changes are in the best interests of the child, it will usually be granted. When parents disagree on the modification of custody terms, they can attend mediation which can help them compromise and find a common ground solution. If an agreement is reached, it must be submitted to the court for approval.

Let Us Assist with Your Child Custody Arrangement Needs

As a parent, you want nothing more than the absolute best for your child. For many parents, that means a deep desire to be more involved in their lives—including more weekend visits or even 50/50 custody arrangements. For other parents, it means reducing or even eliminating the other parent’s custody rights to better protect their child.

No matter what type of custody issues you’re facing, the Tennessee family law attorneys at Inman, Stadler & Hill want to help. We have the experience and resources you need to get the outcome you and your child deserve. Contact us today for a consultation.