The 2012 legislative session was rather uneventful for Tennessee family law attorneys (which is almost always a good thing, in my opinion). There was only one legislative change that I believe is noteworthy. The law establishing the factors a trial court must consider when making an initial child custody determination — Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-6-106 — had language added to one of the factors. Effective July 1, 2012, subsection (a)(10) was amended to add the following bold + italicized language:
The court shall consider all relevant factors, including the following, where applicable:
(10) Each parent’s or caregiver’s past and potential for future performance of parenting responsibilities, including the willingness and ability of each of the parents and caregivers to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and both of the child’s parents, consistent with the best interest of the child. In determining the willingness of each of the parents and caregivers to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and both of the child’s parents, the court shall consider the likelihood of each parent and caregiver to honor and facilitate court ordered parenting arrangements and rights, and the court shall further consider any history of either parent or any caregiver denying parenting time to either parent in violation of a court order.
As I have noted previously on this blog, this particular factor appears to be taking on greater importance in Tennessee. As the psychological research has unequivocally shown a child’s strong relationship with both parents to be a major predictor of success and psychological health as an adult, Tennessee courts are taking note and responding accordingly. While this amendment may seem like nothing more than the codification of common sense, it cannot hurt to emphasize the importance of this single statutory factor. It may also serve to deter the contemptuous shenanigans that sometimes occur in emotional child custody disputes. All in all, that would be a good thing.
Information provided by K.O. Herston: Knoxville, Tennessee Matrimonial, Divorce and Family Law Attorney.