Child Visitation and Parental Responsibility in a Tennessee Divorce

In Tennessee courts and in the laws regarding children, the term “custody” is used, and issues regarding custody are referred to as “visitation.” Visitation is the term used to define all the time each parent will be allotted with the minor child(ren).

In the state of Tennessee, each minor child should have frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents have divorced and it is encouraged that both parents share in the rights and responsibilities of raising their children. The court gives both parents the same consideration in determining parental responsibility and visitation, regardless of the child’s age or gender. Visitation is the amount of time spent with each parent. Visitation is addressed in a Standard Visitation Schedule which outlines the overnights with each parent such as holidays, school breaks, summertime, and regular weekday and weekend overnights. It can be very generic if both parents are able to get along and work with each other, or the Parenting Plan can be very detailed regarding the days each parent has, for those who have trouble being amicable and flexible. If the parents cannot agree on a Parenting Plan the courts will use “the best-interests-of-the-child standard” when considering parental issues and will determine the Parenting Plan for the parents.

Tennessee separates the issues of visitation and parental responsibility. Parental responsibility is the right of each Party to decide about specific issues regarding the minor child(ren) to include but not limited to medical, education, religion. In every divorce in Tennessee, these issues must be addressed in a Parenting Plan filed and accepted by Tennessee courts. The courts will approve the Parenting Plan according to what is “in the best interests of the child(ren)”.

All parents have a duty to support the child, to provide food, shelter, clothing, education, and medical/dental care for the child, regardless of how the parent exercises majority visitation and parental responsibility.

Residency Restriction

Although the court will may give equal visitation to the parents, one parent must be appointed as the primary residence of the child(ren) for purposes of school zoning and “custody” consideration in other states. According to Tennessee law, child relocation, parents may not relocate outside of a 50 mile radius without the consent of the other parent and/or of the court. Parents may freely relocate with the minor child(ren) without prior approval or consent within the 50 mile radius.


The primary factor a court must look at in determining the visitation schedule for a parent is what is in the best interest of the child.

Depending on the circumstances of the children and the parents, as well as the distance between the parents, visitation arrangements can vary. However, most courts will order the visitation schedule based on the created and agreed upon Parenting Plan.

Essentially, the Parenting Plan allows for visitation between the child and parents and is catered to each specific circumstance to include weekends, holidays, school holidays and vacations. This schedule in every Parenting Plan is very specific and detailed and will be incorporated into the Final Judgment for Divorce. Tennessee law promotes frequent contact between children and their parents and encourages both parents to work together for the best interest of the child or children, so Parenting Plans may be written in ways to allow the parents to have the flexibility to change their schedule as needed to accommodate a child’s schedule for extra-curricular activities such as sports, dance, etc. The main thing to keep in mind is that both the mother and father need to work together to make a schedule that is in the best interest of each individual child.