Phillips & Ingrum

Changes to Law in Tennessee Child Custody Matters

By Grayson Cannon

Phillips-Ingrum-Headshots-15_finalThere are several new changes to Tennessee law which became effective July 1 of 2016 that impact child custody cases.  If you have a pending matter involving custody or parenting time, you should know about these important changes.

Tennessee has for several years now required that certain automatic injunctions be issued whenever a new divorce action is filed.  These injunctions prohibited either party from changing the status quo as to insurance and the residence of the children, for example, while the action was pending.  These requirements now also apply to change of custody or parenting time cases, and the language has been adjusted a little to reflect the unique issues that arise in custody cases.   A parent can’t change any insurance, including health and life, involving the children; the parents can’t harass each other while the case is ongoing; the parents can’t destroy evidence on a computer that might relate to child custody; and the parents can’t relocate the children outside the court’s jurisdiction or more than 50 miles away during the pendency of the case.  Therefore, any parent involved in a child custody case should be very careful to obtain legal advice before taking any of the above actions in order to avoid being held in contempt of court.  It may be possible to obtain a court order or the written agreement of the other party to make some of these changes, but until then you should not act.

Another new law which actually become effective with the governor’s signature on April 14, 2016 clarifies that any time a custody or parenting order has been issued by a court, if either parent who has been spending time with a child under that court order wishes to move out of state or more than 50 miles away from the other parent the moving parent must give notice of the planned move.  Many parents ignore this “move-away” law which has been on the books since the late 90’s, but it applies to either parent who moves, not just the primary residential parent.  Moving, depending on the circumstances, may necessitate changes in the child custody and visitation schedule and should not be taken lightly.  The move-away law provides a mechanism for dealing with changes to child custody necessitated by the move if the parents can’t agree to a new parenting plan on their own or through mediation.

If you have questions about child custody, give our office a call!  We are happy to help you get the best result for you and your family.