How to File a Petition for Child Custody in Tennessee

By Jennie Dalcour
Tennessee family courts follow a child's best interest strategy to determine custody.
Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images

Custody disputes are often stressful events for all parties. Each state has its own guidelines for change of custody and procedures to file a petition for custody. In Tennessee 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 $121.00 as of 2011, but fee waivers are available for some petitioners.

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

Gather evidence necessary to 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.