Tennessee is a parenting plan state, and that is a good thing. This approach has eliminated the need for parents to attack one another. Rather than custodial and noncustodial parent, Tennessee uses the terms Primary Residential Parent and Alternative Residential Parent. The parenting plan contemplates that both parents continue to have parenting rights and responsibilities. The parenting plan also provides whether the primary residential parent, the alternative residential parent, or both parents jointly make decisions regarding the child's education, nonemergency health care, extracurricular activities and/or religion.
The parenting plan contemplates that when a parent is exercising their time with the child they are acting as a responsible parent. That is, subject to the court's parenting plan's specific provisions, both parents remain fully empowered to parent, just as before the divorce.
Each parent is to be free to parent as they deem fit, subject to the normal rules of law and the following. The parenting plan provides that the following are essential parental rights and responsibilities.
The term custody is seldom used in Tennessee. Each parent has specific parenting responsibilities and parenting rights. This is considered joint custody.
The amount of time each parent shall spend with the child(ren) is dependent upon the facts and circumstances of the parties. It is typical under the parenting plan law for the court to seek as balanced of an arrangement as possible, with the central tenant or central concern for the court is what is best for the child.
Most courts seem to give great weight to how the parties have handled their shared parental responsibilities while married and when applicable, while separated.
Tennessee now requires either mediation or arbitration if a dispute arises concerning the implementation of the parenting plan unless specifically ordered otherwise.
VI. RIGHTS OF PARENTS
Under T.C.A. § 36-6-101 of Tennessee law, both parents are entitled to the following rights:
(1) The right to unimpeded telephone conversations with the child at least twice a week at reasonable times and for reasonable durations;
(2) The right to send mail to the child which the other parent shall not open or censor;
(3) The right to receive notice and relevant information as soon as practicable but within twenty-four (24) hours of any event of hospitalization, major illness or death of the child;
(4) The right to receive directly from the child's school any school records customarily made available to parents. (The school may require a written request which includes a current mailing address and upon payment of reasonable costs of duplicating.) These include copies of the child's report cards, attendance records, names of teachers, class schedules, and standardized test scores;
(5) Unless otherwise provided by law, the right to receive copies of the child's medical health or other treatment records directly from the physician or health care provider who provided treatment or health care. (The keeper of the records may require a written request which contains a current mailing address and the payment of reasonable costs of duplication.) No person who receives the mailing address of a parent as a result of this requirement shall provide such address to the other parent or a third person;
(6) The right to be free of unwarranted derogatory remarks made about the parent or his or her family by the other parent to the child or in the presence of the child;
(7) The right to be given at least forty-eight (48) hours notice, whenever possible, of all extra-curricular activities, and the opportunity to participate or observe them. These include the following: school activities, athletic activities, church activities and other activities where parental participation or observation would be appropriate;
(8) The right to receive from the other parent, in the event the other parent leaves the state with the minor child or children for more than two (2) days, an itinerary including telephone numbers for use in the event of an emergency;
(9) The right to access and participation in education on the same basis that is provided to all parents. This includes the right of access to the child for lunch and other activities. However participation or access must be reasonable and not interfere with day-to-day operations or with the child's educational performance.
VII. NOTICE REGARDING PARENTAL RELOCATION
The Tennessee statute (T.C.A. § 36-6-1 08) which governs the notice to be given in connection with the relocation of a parent reads in pertinent part as follows:
If a parent who is spending intervals of time with a child desires to relocate outside the state or more than one hundred (100) miles from the other parent within the state, the relocating parent shall send a notice to the other parent at the other parent's last known address by registered or certified mail. Unless excused by the court for exigent circumstances, the notice shall be mailed not later than sixty (60) days prior to the move. The notice shall contain the following:
(1) Statement of intent to move;
(2) Location of proposed new residence;
(3) Reasons for proposed relocation; and
(4) Statement that the other parent may file a petition in opposition to the move within thirty (30) days of receipt of the notice.