Lori R. Holyfield Attorney at Law

An Advocate Through Life's Transitions

Do Mothers Automatically Get Custody of the Children in Tennessee?

It's a myth that mothers always get custody of their children no matter what they do.  The  statute directs the court to consider ten factors, including the following:

  • the love, affection, and emotional ties between each parent and the child;
  • the disposition to provide for the needs of the child (physical, emotional, educational, etc.), and who has historically been the primary caregiver of the child;
  • continuity and stability in the child’s life (for instance, if one parent is remaining in the marital home, or if one parent has behaved in a more stable manner, the court might take that into account);
  • the stability of each parent’s family unit (is there family here in the area?  are they stable people?);
  • each parent’s mental and physical health;
  • the home, school, and community record of the child;
  • the reasonable preference of the child if the child is at least 12 years old, and potentially the preference of a younger child if the court so chooses;
  • evidence of child abuse by either parent (this is obviously relevant);
  • the character and behavior of people that each parent allows the child to be exposed to;
  • and each parent’s past record of, and potential for future performance, of parenting responsibilities.  Parenting responsibilities is kind of a broad term, but one thing the court looks specifically at is the willingness of each parent to foster and encourage a good relationship between the other parent and the child.

These are important factors, and as you may be able to tell from reading over them, they are factors that may sometimes favor a mother if a mother has been a primary caregiver, such as a stay-at-home mother.  However, they aren’t necessarily factors that will automatically, slam-dunk give custody to the mother.  A lot of times, the father may be the more fit parent and therefore entitled to more custody and parenting time than the mother.  It really is specific to the facts of each situation.


Lori R. Holyfield focuses her practice in divorce and family law and serves Shelby, Tipton, and Fayette Counties in southwest Tennessee.

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