How to Modify Child Custody Agreements in Tennessee

Posted by J. Matthew Bolton on March 29th, 2018

Once you’ve finalized your divorce in Tennessee, you will have the final court order that governs the terms of your divorce. Conditions typically outlined in divorce decrees in the state of Tennessee are:

  • Functions concerning children: child support, visitation, and custody arrangements.
  • Equitable division of property: homes, assets, and business interests.
  • Spousal support or alimony payments.

Although divorce decrees can be appealed to higher court,, we typically advise our clients to seek an agreement in the lower courts.

When can parents modify a custody order?

These two conditions must apply to every parenting plan or child custody agreement modification:

  1. Any modification must be established upon a material change in circumstances, and  
  2. Any modification must serve the best interests of the child.

Any of the following events may qualify you to receive modified orders:

  • Relocation of either parent
  • Increase or decrease in one parent’s income
  • Acts of domestic violence
  • Preference of the child, based on their age
  • Serious health problems

What can and can’t you amend?

Property divisions are not typically renegotiated or amended during these proceedings. Once you or your former spouse provides proof of material or substantial changes in circumstances that have occurred since the original divorce decree, some examples of possible amendments can include:

  • Relocation. If one parent has decided to move more than 100 miles away from the other parent without notification or consent, the court the right to potentially deny the right to relocation. Always seek counsel prior to arranging for relocation, especially in cases where children’s support, visitation, and custody will be affected.
  • Alimony. If the spouse paying alimony has a substantial change in income that will adversely affect their ability to pay, this could be grounds for amendment. If the income of the spouse receiving support substantially changes or is found to be residing with another party outside the original terms of the divorce decree, these could also be grounds for amendment.
  • Child support, custody, or visitation schedules. If the non-custodial parent’s gross income changes more than 15%, one parent becomes disabled, or a child’s expenses undergo a significant change, child support payments and the divorce decree may need to be modified. Willful denial of visitation can impact custody and visitation schedules as well as cases of abuse or neglect.

How does a parent start this process?  

Consult with an experienced family law attorney at Herndon, Coleman, Brading, & McKee.  Every situation is unique and requires an action plan which is tailored to your goals. Tennessee law can be vague when it comes to defining what is and is not a change of circumstances.  You can trust our experienced family lawyers who are familiar with Tennessee child custody modification law, your unique situation, and your judge to provide assistance in modifying your custody post-divorce.  


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