One of the most contentious issues in a divorce is handling decisions regarding the children, including child support and child custody matters. At the Law Office of Douglas J. Carter, we assist people in and around Johnson City, Bristol and Kingsport, Tennessee, with family law matters, including divorce, child support and child custody. We understand how difficult and emotional it can be to go through this process. After all, decisions made today will affect the future of you and your children.
Child Custody and Child Visitation Lawyer
I am attorney Doug Carter, and I have been handling family law matters in Tennessee for more than 35 years. My familiarity with the judges is due to my experience practicing in every court in the area. These judges know that I am committed to doing what's right for my clients and their children, which has gained the respect of many judges and helps me work more effectively with them. To speak with our staff, contact us online or by calling 423-794-2745.
At the Law Office of Douglas J. Carter, we make the children's best interests our top priority. Major factors that the courts will take into account when making child custody decisions include:
- Who has been the primary caretaker for the child?
- What is the ability of each parent to provide for the needs of the child?
- Does the parent provide effective parenting and work to protect the child's best interests?
Ten Commandments For Custody Clients
You are in custody litigation. This is intended to give you basic
information about what you can, and can't, do with your children....if
you want to enhance your chances of success.
1. Communication with Your Spouse. Try to discuss your child's welfare with your spouse. Limit your discussion to the child's welfare. Don't discuss the new boyfriend or girlfriend or your anger with the spouse---it's counterproductive. If you cannot discuss these matters with your spouse, write the spouse a letter or memo. Save a copy.
2. Dating. This is addressed from a practical, not moral, stance. You are still married, and you will be until the judge dissolves your
marriage. Terminate or put on hold any extra-marital relationship. If
the new boyfriend or girlfriend cares about you enough, he or she will
wait for you. If not, so be it. You need to concentrate on maintaining and developing your relationship with your children. You do not have the time or money right now for affairs. That time will come later, after this case is closed. If you perceive the extramarital relationship to be a very stable one leading to marriage, and you elect to ignore my advice, remember that you have been warned. Do not involve the paramour in your child's life. Regardless of how much the new love object purportedly cares for your child, limit your contact with the boy/girlfriend to times when the child is with the other parent. Your paramour's lifestyle, behavior, marital status, and indeed relationship with his/her own children, will come under scrutiny in your custody case.
3. Medical Care. Elective, nonemergency medical care should be
undertaken after consultation with the child's other parent. If the
parent refuses to discuss this with you, let that parent know the name
of the service provider, the procedures undertaken, and the diagnosis.
Don't keep the child's medical care a secret from the other parent.
4. School. If you're the primary residential parent, let the other parent know when parent-teacher conferences are scheduled. Give the other parent a copy of the child's report card. Share the child's schoolwork with the other parent. Discuss homework and school responsibilities the child may have with the other parent.
If you're the visiting parent, you have the right to contact the school
and ask that you be contacted about parent-teacher conferences and the
child's school records. Do so. Don't place all of the responsibility
upon your spouse to let you know. Take an active part in the child's
5. Visitation. If you are the primary residential parent, have the children ready for the visit. Have a supply of suitable clothing ready to accompany the child. You don't want the judge to learn that you let
your child go off on a weekend visit with the clothes he was wearing and another change in a plastic bag, do you?
As a single parent, you need a break from the child. And the child
needs a break from you. In an intact family, both parents relieve one
another from the constant demands of the child. In a divorce situation, the appropriate relief is visitation with the other parent.
If you are the visiting parent, pick up the child on time. Return the
child on time. If you're going to be unexpectedly late, call. Don't
demand that the child keep toys and clothing at your house, just because you purchased them. After all, those items are the child's, not yours.
A medical condition short of hospitalization is no excuse for denying
visitation. The visiting parent can, and should, assume some of the
responsibility of caring for a sick child.
Do not use the child as an intermediary to carry messages between you
and your spouse. You're an adult. You know how to communicate.
Visitation is not a time to revisit disputes with your spouse. It's
your time with your child. Use it for that. This is not the time to
introduce the child to your new love match.
Do not pump your child for information about life in the other parent's
home. If it's worth telling, the child will tell you. Did you tell
your parents everything that went on when you were 8 or 12 years old?
Remember how you replied "Oh nothing" to your mother, when she asked you what you did in school?
Do not ask your child to keep secrets about what takes place in your
You do not have the right to refuse visitation because the other parent
hasn't paid child support. The two issues are not related. You have a
remedy for nonpayment of child support. You can lose physical care of
your child if you deny court-ordered visitation.
Don't get too upset about your child's behavior at the beginning or end
of each visit. The child's cries at the end of a visit are perceived by the primary residential parent as tears of joy at being reunited with the parent, and the same outburst is viewed by the visiting parent as tears of sadness at the separation. Plan some kind of activity to allow the child to "wind down."
It's not the end of the world if the child misses a Little League ball
game or Sunday School because it took place during the other spouse's
5. Child Support. If you are ordered to pay child support during the
pendency of this action, pay it. If you simply can't make the full
payment, at least make a partial payment. The judge will not look
kindly upon your claim for increased visitation or physical care when
you have failed to contribute to your child's support.
Child support is money you have paid to the court (if an order has been
entered) or money paid directly to your spouse for the child's support.
Child support is not a Schwinn bicycle or Nike shoes that you bought the child during the weekend visit. It is the money that puts bread on the table and pays the rent.
7. Counselling. Divorce is tough. It's kind of like death, only no
one sends you a condolence card. It hurts. However, it's not fatal.
Go to a mental health professional. It's often easier to discuss your
feelings with someone you'll never see again, someone who'll not say "I
told you so." Therapy will not be held against you in court. In fact,
in addition to helping you through the anger and sadness of divorce, the fact that you sought therapy can be looked upon as a positive factor by the court.
8. Parenting. Tennessee requires parents to attend a court approved parenting class. You can never learn enough about parenting. It's an
ongoing process. Enroll in an extra parenting class. Read about child care, child development, parenting techniques. Show the judge that you know something about parenting and that you have a willingness to learn.
9. Telling the Child about Divorce. Your child knows more about what's going on in his or her life than you may realize. You do not need to go into details about why the marriage ended with the child. There are a number of children's books, geared to varying age and reading levels, which discuss divorce and single parenting issues with the child.
10. Adjustments. Remember when you first became pregnant? You were
filled with worry and doubt about what your life was going to be like.
Your friends and relative all gave you advice about what childbirth and
the new baby was going feel like, but when you actually went through
these steps, your feelings were unique. Divorce is much the same.
While everybody's case has common threads, the actual experience for
each is unique.
You are making the same adjustments in your life day by day as a
divorcing parent as you did as a new parent. Be the best parent for
child that you can be. As a good parent, you try to be a good example
for your child in all aspects of your life. Your child will undoubtedly divorce, end a relationship or quit a job sometime in his or her life. The example you give your child as a divorcing parent is as important as the rest of the "good examples" you try to give your child.
Washington County Child Support Attorney
Child support in Tennessee is based on set guidelines that are based on the number of children, the amount of time each parent spends with the children, the income of each parent and additional expenses like health insurance, day care and after-school care. Certain exceptions may require a child support agreement that is different from the guidelines. To arrange a free initial consultation to discuss your legal matter, contact the firm online or by calling 423-794-2745.