Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznar
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tennessee Bill on Equal Physical Custody Drawing Attention

A bill pending in the Tennessee legislature to mandate equal sharing of a child's time with each parent (with few exceptions) is sparking serious debate between women's advocacy groups and fathers' rights groups.

On one side is an alliance of women's groups, some judges and the Tennessee Bar Association, who say the change would make divorces tougher to settle and give abusive ex-husbands leverage they shouldn't have. Spending half of the time with each parent would also impose impractical schedules on kids, they say.

On the other side are fathers' rights groups who say kids get deprived of full relationships with both parents. Courts have too long ignored laws calling for custody decisions to be made in children's best interests, they say, and judges are overly influenced by notions about the mother-child bond.

The state's House Children and Family Affairs' Family Justice Subcommittee is scheduled to meet today to review divorce-related data it requested from the Tennessee Bar Association, as it works to determine whether to send the bill to a second committee that could send it to the full House.

Other states, including Missouri, start from a presumption of an even custodial split unless there has been abuse, said Janet Richards, a law professor at the University of Memphis who specializes in child custody matters. Tennessee would be alone in requiring clear, convincing evidence that one parent is unfit before dividing custody unequally, she said.

"This law sets up a standard of proof that's just short of the criminal standard of beyond a reasonable doubt," Richards said.

Committee hearings on the bill have drawn standing-room-only crowds full of mothers wearing saucer-size lapel stickers that read "Vote no on HB 2916" and fathers wearing everything from military fatigues to business suits.

Read the bill here or more news coverage here.


Custody (parenting plans) | Permalink

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Tennessee Bill on Equal Physical Custody Drawing Attention:

Comments A universal shared equal parenting law would prevent scorned women from preventing fathers from equal parenting time. This is why laws like HB2916 & SB2881 must be passed. 50-50 must be the starting point...Women do not own the children. The problem is, most women are not reasonable, especially when they see their CS pay check go out the door to daddy's house. They want the money more than they want their children to have a's sad, but true. Please join us in the this fight for equality, share your stories and let's work together to change the TN laws!

Posted by: Dads of Tennessee | Mar 30, 2010 6:02:43 PM

The fact that it has taken this long to consider this bill is astonishing. Children need a mother and a father both. It takes two to create a child and if both parents are capable and willing, equal time is the way to go. Men are often treated like second class citizens. How can you form a bond with a child you see four days a month? It is beyond ridiculous. Many men chose to walk away and who can blame them. The system is badly broken and the legal system is badly broken. Ambulance chasers are against it because they are afraid they are going to lose money. In terms of those claiming "abuse" well there lies the problem. Many women for years have called the Department of Children's Services (yet another inept government agency) setting up men and in family court there does not have to be a burden of proof. Everyone should be considered innocent until proven guilty. With a law such as hopefully this one, it levels the playing field, will cut down on court cases and gasp actually put the child first and not make them have to "choose" between parents.

Posted by: Mike | Mar 31, 2010 8:46:37 AM

Click the link to sign the petition in support of the Tennessee HB2916.

Posted by: Amanda | Apr 1, 2010 12:40:41 PM

Does anyone know the outcome of the state's House Children and Family Affairs' Family Justice Subcommittee review on March 30th?

I am in ful support of this bill and would like to know updated information as well as anything that I can do, personally, to encourage our state's leaders to pass this bill. An equal bond between both mother and father should be allowed and encouraged.

Please send me an e-mail at if anyone has any updated information on this.

Thank you!

Posted by: Rachel | Apr 2, 2010 7:00:07 AM

I fully support this bill.My son is an outstanding,kind person.The mother deserted him before the birth And he did not see his son until he was age 8 months.He assumed equal fault for the failed marriage to get a speedy divorce.My grandson is almost 2 years old.The mother receives over $940.00 per month for this one child.The father has very limited visitation.There should be just treatment for fathers.

Posted by: Bill | Apr 14, 2010 1:29:50 PM

I hear about abused women, but what about the man who is abused and still does not see his kids. It happens. A woman can walk all over her man then alienate the kids against the father and still be considered good mothers in soceity's eyes. My heart breaks for the children who need their dads but are victim to this partial system.

Posted by: Jason Clark | Apr 23, 2010 1:30:01 PM

If im reading this correctly it passed July 1st? My son wasnt married to his daughters mom, but he is in and out of an unfair court system that prevets children from having their dads and that is wrong.He is willing to speak to the committee or whomever, my grand daughter is now 20 months old an I havent even sen hr since she was 4 month old, the dads family is just as important in a childs life. How does this get settled and where does he go to get answers before he once agian goes to court.

Posted by: Debbie Lemons | Aug 8, 2010 1:07:40 PM

Post a comment