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Can you modify child custody in Tennessee?

On Behalf of | Mar 25, 2024 | Child Custody

You might feel bound to your existing child custody order, but as life changes, you might find that it’s no longer tenable. When that happens, you might wonder what you can do to correct the situation and protect your child’s best interests.

Fortunately, Tennessee law allows you to seek modification of an existing child custody order, even if it stemmed from an agreement that you and the other parent reached. Before a court will grant a modification, though, the court must be convinced that there’s been a substantial change in circumstances that materially affects the child’s best interests and well-being.

Before acting on a modification request, then, you need to ensure that you have strong evidence to support your position. You’ll also want to be sure that you can clearly articulate how the changed circumstances are significant and material. It’s also helpful to demonstrate that those changed circumstances are likely to be ongoing. This might leave you wondering what sort of circumstances warrant a custody modification. Let’s briefly look at some of them.

Circumstances that might warrant a child custody modification request

There’s no cookie cutter approach when it comes to building a modification request, as every child and every situation is different. However, there are some situations that are so severe as to warrant modification in most, if not all, instances. These include:

  • Abuse and neglect: Your child deserves to be safe in their home. When they’re not because they’re being abused or neglected, you need to take immediate action to protect them from as much harm as possible. So, gather social services records, police records, medical records, and witness accounts that can help you show that your child is unsafe in the other parent’s care.
  • Exposure to parental substance abuse: If your child’s other parent abuses drugs or alcohol, then your child’s well-being may be at risk from their exposure. Children who are exposed to parental substance abuse can be at a heightened risk of abuse or neglect, and they can develop shame, fear, anxiety, and depression. As a result, their school performance could suffer, and they may start isolating themselves from their social circles.
  • Exposure to domestic violence: Domestic violence in their household puts a child at risk of being injured when they try to intervene. They can also become riddled with fear and anxiety, and they can be conditioned to believe that violence is the best way to deal with the problems that they’re facing. This can create lifelong issues for your child if left unaddressed.
  • Untreated mental health issues: If your child’s other parent suffers from a mental health issue, then they need proper treatment. If they don’t secure it or adhere to treatment recommendations, then they might exhibit behaviors that become dangerous for your child. Therefore, you might need that parent to undergo an evaluation or to turn over mental health records so that you can determine if this is an issue worth addressing through a modification.
  • Failure to adhere to parenting plan: If the other parent is preventing you from spending time with your child or otherwise refuses to abide by an existing parenting plan, then you’ll be in a strong position to seek a modification request.

Are you ready to fight for the child custody modification your child needs?

Child custody can be modified in Tennessee. To successfully do so, though, you need to have a persuasive legal argument on your side. So, before you fully jump into the process, gather evidence, talk to witnesses, and identify experts who might be able to assist you with your case. By being diligent in your preparation, you’ll hopefully set yourself on a path to secure an outcome that best protects your child’s best interests.