When parents in Tennessee get divorced (or non-married parents separate) they complete a document know as a parenting plan. This parenting plan is an incredibly important legally enforceable document that outlines a wide variety of co-parenting arrangements. Parenting plans also address the Tennessee Parent Relocation Law—or what happens when one parent wants to move out of state (or more than 50 miles within Tennessee) with the children.
Substantially Equal Time
The first and most important issue to address when discussing parent relocation is whether the parents spend “substantially equal time” with the child. Generally speaking, if parents spend substantially equal time with the children, it will be more difficult for a parent to relocate when the other parent objects. Conversely, if the parents do not spend substantially equal time with the children, it will be easier for a parent to relocate over the other parent’s objection.
Unfortunately, the Tennessee courts have not told us what “substantially equal time” means. We only know that it doesn’t have to be exactly equal but a 60/40 split is not substantially equal. Therefore, a parent must have at least 150 (and perhaps as much as 157) days throughout the year to be considered as having substantially equal parenting time.
It’s important to note that the law is interested in the time that the parents actually spend with the child and not necessarily what is listed in the parenting plan. If you are operating under a flexible parenting plan and your actual days do not correspond with the days listed, you may be able to use the actual number in determining if your parenting time is substantially equal.
Will the Parent Relocation be Allowed?
If time spent with the children is substantially equal, the parent wanting to move must show that the proposed move is in best interest of the child. Depending on the circumstances, this could be a very difficult burden as courts generally believe that maximizing each parent’s time is what’s in the child’s best interest.
Distance matters in determining best interest of the child. A court will treat a 51 mile move much differently than a move across the country.
However, if time spent with the children is not substantially equal, the move will be allowed if it has a reasonable purpose. Whether a move is reasonable or not is a question for a judge to decide and we recommend you consult with an experienced Tennessee family lawyer to discuss your specific situation.
Notice Regarding Parent Relocation
In Tennessee, the law states that if a parent desires to relocate outside the state or more than 50 miles from the other parent within the state, then the parent wishing to relocate must provide the non-relocating parent with notice at least 60 days prior to the move.
The notice must be mailed to the other parent and must contain the following:
- Statement of intent to move;
- Location of proposed new residence;
- Reasons for proposed relocation; and
- Statement that the other parent may file a petition in opposition to the move with 30 days of receipt of the notice.
What’s A Judge To Do?
The law in this area indicates that the preferred method of handling the issue is for the parents to agree on a new visitation schedule. Courts aren’t thrilled when they are forced to decide on whether an adult can move or not. They prefer that parents enter into negotiations or mediation to develop their own solution in these situations.
If you’re facing a situation where your ex wants to move away with your children (or perhaps you’re the one who would like to move) we welcome you to contact us through this site or call us at 931-398-5200 today to talk about your rights and what’s best for your family.