Managing child custody arrangements can be difficult, particularly when one parent needs to relocate to another city, county, or state.

In Tennessee, the state’s parental relocation law has major implications for families going through this process. This law is designed to ensure that the best interests of the child are considered above all, balancing the rights of parents with the needs of their children.

In this blog, we’ll demystify Tennessee’s parental relocation law and its impact on child custody cases, providing clarity and direction for families facing these challenging circumstances.

Understanding the Basics of Tennessee’s Parental Relocation Law

Tennessee’s parental relocation law comes into play when a parent plans to move more than 50 miles away from the other parent or out of state.

The law mandates that the relocating parent must notify the non-relocating parent at least 60 days prior to moving. This notice must include the intended new address, the reason for moving, and a statement that the other parent may file a petition seeking to prevent the relocation within 30 days of receiving the notice.  Detailed instructions on the law are contained near the end off your parenting plan.

The Impact on Child Custody Arrangements

The implications of Tennessee’s parental relocation law on child custody are profound and multi-layered. These implications include:

Legal Process for Disputes
If the non-relocating parent objects to the move, they must file a petition in court within 30 days after receiving the notice. The court then becomes involved to determine whether the relocation is in the best interest of the child. This legal process can lead to modifications in the custody agreement and visitation schedules to accommodate the new circumstances.

Consideration of the Child’s Best Interests
The court considers multiple factors to decide whether the relocation serves the child’s best interests, including the reasons for and against the move, the quality of the relationships between the child and both parents, and the impact on the child’s development and quality of life. This focus on the child’s welfare can lead to significant changes in custody arrangements to ensure that the child’s needs and well-being are prioritized.

Potential for Custody Modifications
Depending on the court’s findings regarding the child’s best interests, the relocation can lead to modifications in the custody arrangement. For example, if the court permits the relocation, it may adjust the custody order to reflect the new living situation, potentially changing the primary residential parent designation or modifying visitation rights to ensure both parents maintain meaningful relationships with the child.

Encouragement of Negotiation and Mediation
The law also encourages parents to negotiate and reach amicable agreements regarding relocation and the necessary adjustments to custody and visitation arrangements. Mediation is often recommended as a way to resolve disputes without the need for a contentious court battle. Instead, parents can work together to find solutions that serve the best interests of the child.

Impact on Parent-Child Relationships
The relocation law can significantly impact the nature and frequency of contact between the child and the non-relocating parent. Custody arrangements may need to be creatively structured to preserve and support these relationships, possibly including longer visitation periods during school breaks, holidays, and virtual communication methods.

What Happens When This Law Is Broken?

Unfortunately, parents don’t always follow this law. Violating Tennessee’s parental relocation law can lead to several legal and personal consequences, including:

Legal Charges
A parent who relocates with a child without following the proper notification and legal procedures may face legal sanctions. This can include contempt of court charges, especially if the relocation violates a current custody order. Contempt of court can lead to fines, attorney fees, and even jail time in extreme cases.

Modification of Custody and Visitation
The court may reconsider and modify existing custody and visitation arrangements in response to an unauthorized relocation. This could potentially result in the relocating parent losing primary custody or experiencing a reduction in their allotted parenting time. The court always prioritizes the best interest of the child, and unauthorized relocation can be viewed negatively as not adhering to this principle.

Impact on Parental Rights
Engaging in behavior that disregards the legal process and the rights of the other parent can negatively impact a parent’s rights in future custody or visitation disputes. The court may view the relocating parent as less cooperative or as having disregarded the child’s need for a stable relationship with both parents.

How a Lawyer Can Help with Parental Relocation

The nuanced nature of Tennessee’s parental relocation law highlights the importance of having experienced legal counsel by your side. A knowledgeable Maryville child custody lawyer can help you:

  • Understand the intricacies of the law and how it applies to your specific situation
  • Draft and send the required notice to the non-relocating parent in compliance with legal standards
  • Develop a compelling case that supports your position, whether you are seeking to relocate with your child or opposing the move
  • Navigate the legal process, from filing petitions to representing your interests in court

For families taking this path, the guidance of a skilled attorney is invaluable. At Ralls & Wooten, we are committed to supporting you through this process, ensuring that your rights are protected and your child’s best interests are at the forefront of every decision.

Contact us today for a free consultation and to learn more about how we can assist you in your parental relocation case. We have the experience, resources, and dedication to help you get the best possible outcome in this often-difficult situation.