Tennessee Custody Battles: Does Your Income Matter?

Custody battles are emotional, complex, and involve various factors influencing the court’s decision. In Tennessee, one crucial factor that significantly influences custody decisions is the financial stability of each parent.

While financial stability is important, the ultimate goal when deciding custody is the child’s best interest. However, knowing how income and finances affect custody decisions is essential. This article will discuss how financial considerations impact custody decisions in Tennessee.

Understanding the Child’s Best Interest

Tennessee family law emphasizes the child’s best interests as the paramount factor in custody decisions. The court considers various factors outlined in Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-6-106 when determining the child’s best interests.

Among these factors, the financial stability of each parent is a key consideration. It’s important to note that while financial standing is a factor, it is not the sole determinant in custody decisions. Other factors the court may consider include the following.

  • The emotional stability of each parent and their ability to care for the child
  • The physical well-being of each parent
  • Which parent the child prefers to live with (if the child is 12 years or older)
  • The parent with the primary parenting responsibility in the past
  • History of alcohol or substance abuse by either parent
  • Proof of child abuse, domestic violence, neglect, or abandonment of the child
  • The relationship the child has with each parent
  • The relationship the child has with siblings or step-siblings

Financial Stability in Custody Decisions in Tennessee

The court examines the financial stability of each parent to ensure that the child’s basic needs are met. This includes considerations for housing, food, education, and healthcare. If one parent demonstrates significantly higher financial capability, it may be a crucial point in their favor during custody proceedings.

Each parent’s income is typically assessed by submitting financial affidavits, tax returns, and other relevant financial documents. The court considers not only the current income of the parents but also their earning potential, financial responsibilities, and any history of financial misconduct.

However, it’s important to note that having a higher income does not automatically guarantee custody. Courts also consider the source and stability of the income and each parent’s financial responsibility and management skills.

Financial Factors Considered in Tennessee Custody Decisions

Here are some factors affected by a parent’s financial stability that can affect a child’s well-being. The court will likely consider these factors when making a custody decision.

Ability to Maintain a Stable Environment

Financial stability contributes to the overall stability of a child’s living environment. Courts in Tennessee aim to provide children with consistent and secure living conditions. A parent’s financial capacity to maintain a stable home, including meeting mortgage or rent payments, utility bills, and other living expenses, is carefully considered.

Educational and Extracurricular Opportunities

In addition to basic needs, the court may also evaluate a parent’s ability to provide educational and extracurricular opportunities for the child. This includes consideration for school fees, tutoring, and participation in activities contributing to the child’s development. The court may favorably view a parent with the means to offer a broader range of opportunities in custody decisions.

Balancing Financial Capacity with Parental Involvement

While financial stability is essential but not the sole determinant in custody decisions, Tennessee courts emphasize the importance of each parent’s involvement in the child’s life. A financially stable parent actively engaged in the child’s education, emotional well-being, and daily life may have an advantage over a wealthier but less involved parent.

The Impact of Lifestyle Choices

Courts may scrutinize the lifestyle choices of each parent, which can indirectly relate to financial stability. For instance, excessive spending, financial irresponsibility, or a pattern of unstable employment may raise concerns about a parent’s ability to provide a secure and consistent environment for the child.

The Importance of Child Support

Child support is a central component of custody and financial considerations in Tennessee. The court may order the noncustodial parent to make child support payments to the custodial parent to assist with the child’s expenses. The amount is usually determined based on the income of both parents and the child’s needs.

Failure to pay child support in Tennessee can have serious consequences, including legal penalties and potential impact on custody arrangements. Courts view the ability and willingness to financially support the child as a critical aspect of responsible parenting.

Modifying Custody Orders in Tennessee

Custody orders are not set in stone and can be changed if there is a change in either parent’s financial circumstances (i.e., income, employment status, etc.). If a parent experiences a substantial increase or decrease in income, it may warrant a modification of the child custody arrangement.

Criticisms and Concerns

While considering income in custody decisions is meant to safeguard the child’s well-being, critics argue that this approach may disproportionately affect low-income parents. There are concerns that the system may inadvertently favor wealthier parents, potentially limiting low-income parents’ access to their children.

On the other hand, proponents argue that financial stability is crucial to providing a secure and healthy environment for the child. They believe that the court’s focus on income ensures that the child’s basic needs are met and that both parents are equally responsible for the child’s upbringing.

Turn to Attorney Hunter Fowler, a Murfreesboro Child Custody Lawyer, for the Expertise You Need

The role of income and finances in custody decisions in Tennessee is a multifaceted and sensitive issue. While the financial stability of each parent is a legitimate consideration in determining the child’s best interests, it is just one factor among many. Ultimately, the goal is to ensure that the child’s well-being is prioritized and their future is shaped by a stable and supportive environment, irrespective of the financial standing of each parent.

Attorney Hunter Fowler knows that parents want what is best for their children. He is an expert at creating and modifying parenting plans and has negotiated dozens of successful child support and parenting plans for parents who want to be part of their child’s life. And when circumstances change, he knows how to effectively take your request to the court to achieve the necessary modifications.

Contact us today for a consultation.