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Co-Parenting in Tennessee: Joint Custody Tips for Divorced Parents

Legal Custody

The Tennessee Code Annotated, chapter 36-6-404, defines the legal implications of what is known as a shared parenting plan. This arrangement permits both parents to participate in the major decision-making of their child's life, such as education, health care, and religious upbringing. The goal of this plan is to promote frequent, meaningful, and continuing contact between both the custodial and noncustodial parent and the child. Shared parenting is therefore typically in the best interest of the child, who benefits from parental guidance, love, and support.


To legally implement the shared parenting plan, parents must file a declaration with the court that outlines the details of the agreement, as established by chapter 36-6-407 of the Tennessee Code Annotated. This declaration must include the parents' names, place of residence, and the proof that they have agreed to the plan. It also must contain the following language: "The parents are filing a joint parenting plan and agree to share the care, custody, and control of the child; and neither parent shall be designated as the primary residential parent for the child." This declaration then allows both parties to move forward in legal matters.


Parental Rights and Responsibility

In co-parenting arrangements, the parental rights and responsibilities of each parent must be legally established. Tennessee's Code Annotated 36-6-101 explains that each parent has certain duties towards their children, including providing physical care, protection, support, and discipline. This statute also notes that both parents have a right to access their child's records, with the exception of confidential information, such as mental health records or similar. The same code also presents additional legal matters, such as provisions for a grandparent visitation, out-of-state relocation of the child, and rights to the child in case of death or absence of the parents.


Visitation Rights and Parenting Plans

Parents that are divorcing or separating in Tennessee must come to an agreement in which the child's interests are protected. The Tennessee Code Annotated 36-6-106 defines a parenting plan as "any written document created and agreed to by the parties pursuant to this part that outlines the rights and responsibilities of each of the parties regarding the physical care and legal decision-making of the minor child or children." This plan will denote who will have parental rights and the amount and access one parent will have to the child. However, the best interest of the child is the most important factor in this process, with the court having the right to approve or reject the agreement proposed.


Regarding visitation rights, Tennessee's Code Annotated 36-6-406 recognizes the importance of each parent interacting with the child through meaningful contact. This legislation recognizes that a substantial relationship between the noncustodial parent and the child still needs to be maintained, and thus provides guidelines for a parenting plan, specifying the amount of time each parent should have with the child. Furthermore, this statute also clarifies when court-ordered visitation could be warranted, such as if the parents cannot reach an agreement between themselves.


Child Support

Child support is one of the most important and contentious aspects of co-parenting. The Tennessee Code Annotated 36-5-101 outlines the guidelines for how child support is determined in the state. According to this statute, both parents must contribute their fair share to the financial maintenance of their children. The noncustodial parent is expected to pay a set amount to the custodial parent each month, to help cover expenses such as medical bills and tuition. The amount is calculated according to a judge-approved formula that takes into account both parents' incomes, as well as any other relevant factors, such as which parent pays for the child's health insurance.


Co-Parenting Expenses

In some cases, co-parenting expenses may arise, including those related to extra-curricular activities, orthodontics, or even vacations. In Tennessee, co-parenting expenses must be outlined in the parenting plan and put into writing, as required by Tennessee Code Annotated 36-6-115. This dictates what the cost-sharing agreement between the two parents will be, and also covers any debts due to the child, such as student loans and credit card payments. This structure ensures that both parties are aware of the child's financial obligations and that each parent is held accountable for any agreed-upon contributions.



When parties involved in a co-parenting arrangement present issues that they cannot resolve between themselves, they may opt to engage third-party mediation services. This process involves the utilization of an independent mediator to assist in developing and resolving any issues that may arise between the co-parents, in order to arrive at an agreement that is mutually acceptable. This process is outlined by Tennessee's Code Annotated 36-6-410 and can prove to be an effective tool in helping to resolve conflicts.



Tennessee parents and guardians should consider both the legal and practical implications of co-parenting arrangements before making a decision. Understanding the codes of the state, such as the ones outlined above, can be essential in establishing parental rights and responsibilities, and providing financial security for all involved. Additionally, when parents are unsure of the path forward, they may opt to use mediation services to help them reach an agreement that is acceptable to the court and best for the child. Ultimately, raising children is an important part of life, and parents should strive to provide a safe and comfortable environment in which their children can thrive and grow.


Fact Check and Sources

In writing this post, we conducted thorough fact-checking and research, consulting the following sources:


Co-parenting in USA


Co-parenting in Canada


Warning:  This post is neither financial, health, legal, or personal advice nor a substitute for the advice offered by a professional. These are serious matters, and the help of a professional is recommended as it can impact your future.

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