Chattanooga Child Custody Lawyer
Parents want what’s best for their kids, and minimizing the impact a divorce has on them tends to be at the forefront of both parents’ minds. Spouses don’t always agree on child custody arrangements, though. When two parties can’t see eye-to-eye on what the best life for their child is, legal help is necessary.
At the Law Office of Sam Byrd in Chattanooga, Tennessee, we work to protect the rights of our clients while ensuring the parent-child bond remains intact. We work toward developing a parenting plan tailored to each family’s unique needs and circumstances.
“What’s best for kids is two healthy, capable, engaged parents.”
How Child Custody is Decided
In most cases, child custody, time-sharing, and parenting plans are decided by an agreement between the parents. That’s right. The majority of separating couples do not leave such important decisions up to a stranger in a black robe in an unfamiliar courtroom.
Some of these people are able to reach agreements on their own early. Many more are able to reach agreements with the guidance of lawyer-led negotiations and never see the inside of the courtroom. A smaller percentage gets a small taste of how bitter the court process can be and realize the benefits of learning to work together rather than working against each other is what is best for everyone. And finally, a small percentage of cases require some court intervention due to a history of domestic abuse, untreated mental health issues, and/or substance abuse.
When a Tennessee court must make decisions about child custody, the court orders are based on the child’s best interests and how to achieve them.
A judge will consider several factors in each child custody case, including:
- Each parent’s ability to support the child financially
- The stability of the living situation at each parent’s home
- The parent primarily providing for the daily needs of the child before the proceedings
- The love and affection between each parent and the child
- The character of others who frequent the home where the child will reside
- Each parent’s ability to encourage a healthy relationship between the child and the other parent (often considered THE most important factor)
Hamilton County Child Custody Attorney
Child custody orders make an important distinction between physical custody and legal custody of the child.
Physical custody refers to where and with whom the child will primarily reside and how much time the child will be under the care of each parent. The law has replaced the term “custody” with “parenting time” and “time-sharing arrangement.”
Any schedule where both parents enjoy time with the child is referred to as joint custody, otherwise known as “joint parenting time.” The term for the parent with whom the child spends the majority of the time, even if for only a day, is known as the “primary parent” and the other as the “alternate parent.” Parents who share exactly equal time are known as “joint primary parents.”
Legal custody, on the other hand, involves maintaining the parents’ legal rights when making significant decisions. Tennessee law separates the living arrangements of the child from the decision-making for the child. These decisions often involve the child’s health care, education, and religious matters. Parents can share legal custody of decision-making, referred to as joint custody, or it may be allocated to one parent only (sole custody).
We encourage our clients to work out a parenting plan with the other parent through mediation whenever possible instead of turning these crucial decisions over to a family court judge.
When you agree to a plan that the court will approve, both parents can keep control over the structure of their children’s lives post-divorce. Of course, if a parenting plan cannot be agreed to, we are always prepared to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf in court.
When to Fight for Sole Custody
Sometimes, it’s in the child’s best interest to be under the sole care and decision-making of only one parent. These situations typically occur because one parent poses a risk of harm or danger to the child and cannot be trusted to make proper decisions.
Some common situations include:
- One parent has a history of actively trying to alienate or separate the child from the other parent.
- One parent plans to move out of state and take the child far away from the other parent.
- One parent is unfit to care for the child. This could mean they suffer from mental health issues, substance abuse problems, or have a history of domestic violence or sexual abuse charges.
Do you really need lawyers?
Maybe not, but believe us, you’d much rather hire a good lawyer and feel like you didn’t really need the help than not hire a lawyer and wish you had! Besides, we almost always hear afterward that our clients are glad to have a lawyer’s help negotiating their child custody and parenting time agreement.
When deciding whether to hire a lawyer, we think it is important to remember that the lawyer you hire can be part of the solution or can be part of the problem. Some lawyers actually create more conflict and problems in a situation that might have otherwise been resolved amicably. Look for a lawyer that creates solutions, not more problems. Guidance from a lawyer who keeps an eye on the long-term best interest of your child, and the child’s future family dynamic, will give you confidence that you are making the best decisions for your future.
Any lawyer can tell you about the law and argue for what you want. But we believe that is the absolute minimum requirement to be a good family lawyer. A good family lawyer should also be a skilled and experienced negotiator. They should counsel you toward cooperation over combat. A divorce is as close to combat as many people will ever get and a battlefield is no place for children.
Choose a lawyer willing to engage in peace talks and diplomacy before firing shots.
In fact, we believe a really great family lawyer should also help you to reduce and manage conflict by helping you create a framework for how to make the best decisions for your children both now, in the current conflict, and for all the future conflicts that will inevitably come.
We help you make rational decisions in an irrational time.
A divorce ends an intimate relationship between adults. A divorce gives you an ex-spouse but it does not give your child an ex-parent.
A divorce does not end the parenting relationship between two people who will be tied together for life by their children. Nor does it automatically and without effort end the chronic conflict between them. For the benefit of your children, doesn’t it make more sense to resolve or otherwise manage conflict with your ex than to exacerbate it?
We strongly believe you should give yourself the advantage and peace of mind of hiring a Chattanooga child custody lawyer who will help you solve problems, not create more. We will help you outline strategies on how to minimize conflict and stay out of court. But if your situation is one that requires court intervention, have the experience to put you in the best possible position to tell your story to the judge.
Your next step is to meet with an attorney to learn what’s at stake, learn how to protect yourself, and learn how to move forward to a place of peace.
Contact the Law Office of Sam Byrd to schedule an appointment.