Knoxville Tennessee Parenting Plan Modification Attorney
Even when parents are on amicable terms during a divorce, determining child custody can be an emotional and contentious issue. The dissolution of a marriage means both parties must reorganize their living arrangements and learn how to share parental responsibilities. This process is harrowing, especially for people who are unfamiliar with their legal rights and options.
Whether you are a biological or adoptive parent, Landry & Azevedo understand the love and compassion you have for your children. We realize that in most cases parents want what is best for their children, such that they can thrive in life while maintaining healthy relationships with both parents. The ability to foster an on-going relationship between the child and your ex-spouse is a fundamental aspect of the Court’s consideration in a custody case.
Located in Knoxville, Tennessee, our team’s number one goal is to prove to the Court that your proposed parenting plan modification is in the best interests of the child. Mounting a persuasive case with compelling evidence is never easy, but our team at Landry & Azevedo has a lengthy history of helping petitioning parents do just that. Our attorneys leverage their decades of collective experience to swiftly and effectively navigate through the parenting plan modification process.
The Origins Of The Parenting Plan
The Tennessee Parenting plan law is relatively recent and went into effect on January 1st, 2003. According to legislators, the purpose of the law is “to make sure children are not hurt by a divorce.” The parenting plan is designed to make divorcing parents work together to create the new parenting structure that works for everyone involved.
Consequently, the law eliminated the term “custody” and derivations thereof, in favor of new words, including “primary residential parent,” “alternative residential parent,” “residential time,” and “co-parenting time.”
Understanding The Parenting Plan
The parenting plan is a comprehensive agreement between divorcing or divorced parents that outlines the practices and day-to-day responsibilities of caring for their children under age 18. It also includes financial support, education, and decision making regarding the children. The document is detail-intensive to ensure a clear and hopefully mutually agreed upon parenting future.
In the parenting plan, one parent is the primary residential parent (PRP). The PRP is the parent whom the children will theoretically spend more time with, while the alternate residential parent (ARP) is the parent whom theoretically will spend less time with the children. Even if time is 50-50, each parent must be deemed PRP or ARP for the purpose of school zoning.
The language and agreements in the parenting plan depend entirely on the parents and the Court. Regardless of whether the negotiations occur inside or outside of the courtroom, it is essential to consider a diverse range of factors as they relate to the best interests of the children. These factors are found in T.C.A. §36-6-106 and include:
The distance between the parents’ homes
The preference of the children if 12 or above
The children’s extracurricular activities
The mental and physical health of the parents
The age, sex, mental, and physical conditions of the children
The employment and work schedule of each parent
The strength of the relationship between the parents and children
The ability of a parent to provide a stable and secure home
The current circumstances of the children vs. the impact change will have on them
The parent’s lifestyle choices
Each parent’s willingness to foster an ongoing relationship between the child and other parent
Once parents reach an agreement or the Court orders otherwise, the parenting plan takes effect.
Each parent is legally obligated to uphold his or her end of the bargain. Parenting plans are fluid documents and there are opportunities to tweak the plan if circumstances change.
Steps To Modify Your Parenting Plan In Tennessee
Parenting plans are not permanent. They can be modified depending on events that transpire in the lives of the parents and children over time.
Initiating the modification process starts with filing a Petition for Modification. One of our attorneys at Landry & Azevedo can help draft the necessary paperwork in detail. The petition is meant to signal to the Court why a particular parent believes the modification to be in the best interests of the child.
The second step is the service of the petition on the opposing party. Parents must be able to prove that they have hand delivered a copy of their petition to the other parent. Our attorneys have relationships with dedicated process servers and the Knox County Sheriff’s Department to assure the paperwork gets served in a proper and expedient manner.
Following service of the petition on the opposing parties, the Courts of Tennessee require parents filing a modification petition to engage in mediation to try to amicably resolve their disputes. Mediation is a neutral process wherein a third-party attorney acting as mediator seeks to reach accord between the respective parties. Landry & Azevedo uses a handful of respected mediators to achieve this goal.
Next, if the matter cannot be resolved through mediation, the case is set for hearing and/or trial. The burden of proof is on the petitioning party to show there has been a significant and material change in circumstance justifying modification of the parenting plan.
The process of proving a material change in circumstance requires evidence, which can come in the form of testimony and physical or digital materials. This aspect of a case is made significantly easier with an attorney who understands the standard of proof, is familiar with the Court, and can build a robust case before the hearing even starts. Being persuasive is imperative, especially when grave circumstances are at hand, such as one parent developing a debilitating drug addiction or becoming terminally ill.
At the conclusion of the hearing or trial, the judge assigned to the case will make a ruling. They will consider the non-exhaustive list of factors mentioned above, as well as any other compelling evidence. The Court will grant a petition for modification upon a showing that a material change in circumstance has developed and the proposed modification is in the child’s best interest.
Learn More About Modifying Your Parenting Plan
Making a change to your current parenting plan can significantly improve the lives of your children. Make sure you have someone at your side that is ready to advocate for your rights and promote the child’s best interests in the courtroom. Come meet with one of our attorneys in Knoxville by calling (865) 851-7050 today.