Lawyers People Love helps you navigate sharing responsibilities and maximizing time with your children after divorce

Divorces involving children are never simple, but for parents seeking 50/50 custody in Nashville, TN, it’s possible to minimize conflict while maximizing the time you spend with family. That’s a benefit both for you, your former spouse, and most of all, the children you share.

But custody arrangements are complicated. They’re governed by a hodgepodge of competing laws, negotiated arrangements, parenting plans, and rulings made in court. All those things can be affected whenever the circumstances of one parent or the other change.

Father spending time with his daughter and family sharing custody in Nashville TN

Lawyers People Love is here to help you understand your rights and the path you can take to secure 50/50 custody in Nashville of your children with your former spouse. Educating yourself about your rights and the custody process is the first step.

What is custody and who determines it?

Whenever people say “custody,” they think in the broadest terms of legal agreements between parents, rulings made by the court, and more than a few handshake deals made over the years. But in a court of law, custody has one meaning: who’s in charge of the children and where do they live?

In years past, courts favored the mother as the primary custodian of children, but today that’s changed. In Tennessee, both parents start out with equal rights to their children, equal authority to make decisions for those children, and equal responsibilities to pay for the children’s care.

After a divorce, how any two parents raise their children is outlined in the custody agreement they reached during the divorce and the parenting plan they developed together. Before you start the process of drafting a parenting plan, it’s important you know a few key terms about custody in Tennessee.

Understanding the vocabulary of custody laws in Tennessee

One of the most challenging aspects of unpacking custody laws for parents is overcoming what a parent thinks they know about how parenting works. That begins with the vocabulary, where popular terms like “joint custody” or “equal time” mean one thing outside of court and another altogether once you get into the courtroom. Here’s a quick glossary of some of the common terms you’ll need to understand during your custody process:

Full custody

One parent is awarded sole authority over the child and makes all decisions related to the child’s care and well-being, including controlling the amount of time the child spends with a non-custodial parent. Full custody of this kind is highly uncommon in Tennessee today, however, you may still hear your lawyer or the judge use this term. They mean it more informally as “the parent the child lives with.” (See Primary residential parent.)

Joint custody

The most common form of custody in Tennessee is “joint custody,” though it isn’t exactly defined in the law. Joint custody is used to describe arrangements where parents share responsibilities for decision-making equally, and neither parent is given authority over the other to make decisions or to veto them. Under joint custody, parents still may be the primary residential parent, have scheduled visitation times, or pay or receive child support.

Equal parenting

Whenever each parent cares for and houses their child 50 percent of the time, an equal parenting agreement is in place. Under equal parenting agreements, or 50/50 custody, parenting time is divided between the two parents according to the parenting plan, and residential time itself is equally distributed.

Primary residential parent

In most divorces, a child has to live somewhere most of the time. The parent with home the child spends most of their days is called the primary residential parent. Under Tennessee custody law, the primary residential parent is defined as the parent with whom the child spends more than 50 percent of their time. Typically, the primary residential parent will be the recipient of any child support payments.

Alternative residential parent

If your child lives with your former spouse five days a week and spends weekends at your house, you’re the alternative residential parent. Think of it as exactly the opposite of the primary residential parent.

Residential time

Regardless of the kind of custody arrangement, parenting plans and custody agreements include minute details about how much time a child spends with each parent. The amount of time a child spends under a parent’s care. This used to be called “parenting time” or “visitation.”

Parenting day

For purposes of custody agreements, a parenting day is any day in which a child spends more than 50 percent of that day and night with the parent. Parenting days are a crucial element of custody agreements because courts typically count residential time in parenting days.

Parenting plan

A parenting plan is a formal, written document that outlines how the two parents will share decision-making, care for the children, and divide time with the children between themselves. Parenting plans may alot decision-making on certain matters to one parent or the other, like giving a mother authority over educational decisions or affording the father the right to make decisions about health insurance. Since 2001, written parenting plans have been required in Tennessee.


Parenting plans aside, in almost no circumstances is one parent’s authority over a minor child absolute. Whenever parents disagree about the best course of action for a child, they can enter mediation, where they meet with a court-approved mediator to assist in settling the dispute.

While these are just a few of the terms you might hear during your child custody proceedings, they provide you with a basic vocabulary that will help avoid any confusion you or your co-parent may experience. After all, you’re seeking to share 50/50 custody in Tennessee, you’ll definitely have to ensure you understand your rights and your responsibilities under the law and under your parenting plan.

What are the requirements for 50/50 custody in Nashville, TN?

Now that you understand the basics of child custody, you’re ready to tackle the bigger questions about how you can get 50/50 custody in Tennessee. As with so many other issues in a divorce, the simplest answer is “Ask for it.”

Custody arrangements in Tennessee are most frequently the product of two parents coming together and negotiating terms such as primary residence, educational necessities, and medical care. In many cases, parents successfully negotiate a 50/50 custody-sharing parenting plan.

However, just because your former spouse is unwilling to negotiate does not mean you won’t get 50/50 custody in Nashville, TN. Ultimately, the decision rests with the judge.

Work with your attorney to demonstrate your desire for shared custody and equal parenting time. In weighing this request, the judge will seek assurances that you can handle the time requirements, will provide adequate housing and care, and can foot the financial burdens associated with keeping your children with you half the time.

Will 50/50 custody in Nashville affect my child support?

The final factor to take into consideration is how a 50/50 custody plan will affect child support obligations of both parents. In Tennessee, the process for determining child support is relatively straightforward.

First, you and your spouse will provide the court with income and expenses statements. These figures will be entered into a child support worksheet that indicates the overall amount of support both parents are expected to provide to the child combined. The worksheet then divvies up the responsibilities based on a host of factors like where the child spends more time, which spouse earns more, whether one spouse or the other provides health insurance or pays work-related childcare.

You’ll still be responsible for all of your child’s needs while they’re in your care, and you’ll also be responsible for your portion of any other major expenses, such as medical bills, education expenses, or other costs that arise in raising children. As with almost every other aspect of divorce, the best option will be to negotiate these matters with your former spouse before you appear in court.

For more information or to get help with your custody arrangement and parenting plan, call Lawyers People Love

Lawyers People Love is here to help you negotiate the most ideal child custody plan for you and your children.  We look forward to helping you achieve 50/50 custody in Nashville, TN.  To schedule a consultation, contact us today. Or, you can give us a call at 615-628-7052.

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