How to File a Petition for Child Custody in Tennessee

By Jennie Dalcour ; Updated March 29, 2017
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Each state has its own guidelines for change of custody. In Tennessee, you'll have to learn the correct court procedures and file all necessary paperwork. The presumption is that children are best served by joint custody. Family courts are obligated to base their custody decisions on the best interest of the child. If you feel you have significant cause, you can file a petition to receive sole custody of your minor child.

Learn the Tennessee State Guidelines for Child Custody

Tennessee can award sole custody to either parent or can decree a joint parenting plan. Sole joint and physical custody can be awarded if the other parent has abandoned the child, the other parent is not capable of responsible parenting or the other parent has committed a crime against any child.

Obtain the Intake Paperwork From Your County’s Juvenile Court

File the paperwork along with the filing fees. The intake filing fees are $221.50 as of 2017, but fee waivers are available for some petitioners.

Attend the Intake Appointment

A Tennessee juvenile court staff member will explain how your case will proceed and prepare your petition and the court summons. You will be given copies to sign and an initial court hearing date.

Provide Evidence to the Judge

Show the judge that a change of custody is necessary. Children must be at risk of substantial harm to warrant custody changes in Tennessee. You may wish to have friends or relatives write letters of reference on your behalf. Your child’s teachers, doctors, therapists or other professionals should write letters describing the necessity of a custody change.

If possible, consult a family law attorney before filing the petition. Custody disputes are complex and petitioners benefit from legal counsel.

About the Author

Jennie Dalcour began writing Internet content in 2009. She has worked several years in the telecommunications industry and in sales and marketing. She has spent many years teaching young children and has spent over four years writing curriculum for churches. She is now pursuing a Masters of Arts in clinical psychology at Regent University and has ample experience with special needs children.