The child custody arrangement you establish with your kids’ other parent may be modified based on changed circumstances in your life, the other parent’s life, or your children’s lives. The following are a few of the most frequently asked questions we receive about modifying custody arrangements and our brief answers.
How old do children have to be for judges to take their wishes into account?
According to Tennessee law, judges must at least listen to a child aged 12 or above when it comes to custodial preference. But most family law judges will weigh a child’s maturity and intelligence in deciding whether that preference is reasonable. Even when a judge does decide to take a child’s wishes into account, there are still many other factors the court must consider when issuing a custody arrangement or modifying an existing one.
If my spouse does not pay child support, may I seek custody modifications, such as declining visitation?
Child support and visitation/custody are completely separate issues. You cannot deny visitation for nonpayment of child support, and you cannot stop paying child support because you were denied visitation. These are established by court order and must be followed until a judge changes the orders. You may seek modifications, but you should not expect them to be approved simply because a parent was not following child support guidelines.
I need to move to another state, and I have primary custody of my child. What do I do?
You are required to notify the other parent and, depending on the circumstances, may have to file with the Court that you intend to move away from your area. Such circumstances are usually spelled out in your divorce decree or custody arrangement. In general, the court will review the situation and determine what to do based on the child’s best interests.
What should I do if I believe my spouse or his/her new partner is an alcoholic or abusive?
You should seek assistance from your family law attorney to get a change in custody immediately. If you have any evidence of abuse, the court will likely not hesitate to make a change, as the focus is always on keeping children safe and in positions where they can live happily and comfortably.