How Does Domestic Violence Affect Custody Determinations in Tennessee?
05 December 2017IN: Family Law
Domestic violence can have serious traumatic effects and will be considered in child custody determinations
Tennessee, like many other states, considers domestic violence as a relevant factor to child custody and visitation determinations. While incidences of domestic violence are weighed in child custody determinations, it is important to understand what kind of effect they can have on different outcomes. Every situation is unique, and the court will conduct a fact-specific analysis in order to make sure the custody situation is in the best interest of the child.
When evaluating how domestic violence affects a custody determination, Tennessee judges will consider:
- Whether it was a single act of domestic violence or repeated acts of domestic violence;
- When the act or acts of domestic violence occurred; and
- The severity of the domestic violence.
An isolated incidence of domestic violence will not usually lead to a parent being barred from seeing his or her child. If the domestic violence was an isolated incident that occurred several years ago, this will also be considered. It is a totality of circumstance analysis. All of the factors will be carefully weighed and the judge will determine what custody arrangement is in the best interest of the child accordingly. Tennessee law prevents the judge from any custody arrangement that would potentially endanger the safety or well-being of a child.
If it is determined that an incidence or incidences of domestic violence should have an impact on a parent’s right to visit or have custody of a child, then a Tennessee judge will likely put restrictions on that parent in the form of supervised visitation. Supervised visitation restrictions may include:
- Requiring a qualified adult or agency representative to accompany the parent during child visitation;
- Having the abusive parent complete a counseling program prior to starting visitation;
- Prohibiting overnight visits; and
- Keeping the address of the child private.
These conditions may be temporary. The restrictions may be automatically lifted upon the completion of one of the court order requirements. In other situations, the parent must go to the judge with proof that an unsupervised visitation plan would be in the best interests of the child.
In extreme cases of domestic violence, a court may terminate parental rights. This type of action is reserved for situations where there is a history of repeated and serious incidences of domestic violence. Termination of parental rights is permanent. Once a parent’s legal rights are terminated, they cannot, and will not, be reinstated.