Tennessee Stepparent Visitation Rights
Step-parent visitation rights in Tennessee are very specific.
Tennessee law recognizes the changing nature of families by considering the role a stepparent may play in the life of a minor child. If the biological parent permits visitation, then there is no need to use the law or turn to the courts. If, however, the biological parent refuses visitation between the stepparent and the child, the stepparent has certain rights. The applicable law is Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-6-303 (2012) which permits the court to allow visitation to a stepparent when one spouse files a suit for divorce, annulment or separate maintenance. The law, however, takes two factors into consideration when permitting visitation. The first condition requires that visitation by the stepparent is in the best interests of the child. The court, however, is limited by an additional economic factor. The stepparent is entitled to visitation rights only if she or he is actually providing or contributing towards the support of the child.
The combination of these two conditions raises some interesting questions about the reasoning behind the legislation. Undoubtedly, there are cases in which the stepparent was essentially a “regular” parent for the child, perhaps even the only other parent the child has known. Even in cases where there is still another biological parent, it can be assumed that children will form strong bonds with the stepparent with whom they lived. The law recognizes that prohibiting the continuation of this relationship might be detrimental to the child. At the same time, the law emphasizes that if the relationship is indeed important enough to the stepparent to file an application with the court, that stepparent should also be willing to contribute financially. This will help weed out stepparents who are not interested in the child but rather in getting even with the biological parent.
Recognizing that there might be other circumstances, the second section of the law gives the court discretion to make changes or modifications “as the exigencies of the case require.” For example, a biological parent may refuse visitation for selfish reasons, without considering the welfare of the child. Or there may be a stepparent who, in fact, cannot pay support. The court can consider all of these factors and make a final ruling that is truly in the child’s best interest.
References, Resources and More:
- Tennessee Child Custody Laws
- Tennessee Child Custody Laws in Divorce – Answers to FAQs
- Tennessee Parenting Plans and Child Support Worksheets: Building a Constructive Future for Your Family
- Top 7 Tennessee Custody Divorce Strategies | How To Win Custody in a Tennessee Divorce
- Child Custody – Tennessee Family Law Blog for updates, analysis, commentary & case law summaries