By Jedidiah McKeehan

Whether you are married or not, if you and the other parent of your children decide to part ways, it is necessary to put a custody arrangement in place.

How does a court determine what the custody arrangement will be?  Does the mother always get more of the time?  Does the court simply do a 50/50 arrangement and just be done with it?  Does the court follow what the child wants?

In previous years, courts often awarded mother primary custody of children with fathers having an every other weekend type visitation schedule.  Now, courts tend to lend towards 50/50 schedules unless the parties agree to a different schedule or can convince the court that there are reasons not to put down a 50/50 schedule.

The courts do NOT simply go with what parent a child wants to live.  Under Tennessee Code Annotated 36-6-106 there are 15 factors that the court is supposed to use in determining custody arrangements for children, and typically courts will only hear a child’s preference when that child is at least 12 years old.  That preference is only one of the 15 factors the court is to consider in making a custody determination.

Some of the other factors that court will consider in making a custody determination are: the ability of the parents to take care of the children’s needs, the relationship of children with siblings and step-siblings, the work schedule of the parents, the importance of continuity in the children’s lives, and the character and behavior of other individuals who live in the home with the parent.


Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties.  He works in many areas, including criminal, personal injury, landlord-tenant, probate, and estate planning. Visit for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.