Judges' Questions

Are Parenting Plans needed for cases filed prior to January 1, 2001?

The law says: “Any final decree or decree of modification in an action for absolute divorce, legal separation, annulment, or separate maintenance involving a minor child shall incorporate a Permanent Parenting Plan.” T.C.A. § 36-6-404(a). Under a strict reading, this would mean that Parenting Plans would be required for cases filed before but resolved after January 1, 2001. However, some jurisdictions are applying the law only to those cases filed after January 1, 2001.

Is there a standard Parenting Plan form used throughout the state?

Yes. Tennessee Code Annotated §36-6-404 requires that a parenting plan form shall be used consistently by each court within the state that approves parenting plans pursuant to §36-6-403 or §36-6-404”. The form is to be used on and after July 1, 2005 . The form and instructions are located here

When do the parties file their proposed Temporary Parenting Plans?

The law sets no time for the filing of a proposed Temporary Parenting Plan. If the parties agree to a temporary plan, no written Temporary Parenting Plan is needed. T.C.A. § 36-6-403(a)(1). It is expected that a plaintiff will file a proposed Temporary Parenting Plan with the complaint and the defendant will file a proposed plan with the answer.

What do I do if only one party files a proposed Temporary Parenting Plan?

The law provides that if only one party files a proposed Temporary Parenting Plan (and the Plan meets the requirements of the law), “that party may petition the court for an order adopting that party's plan by default, upon a finding by the court that the plan is in the child's best interest.” T.C.A. § 36-6-403(a)(2).

Do I have to send the parties to mediation if they cannot agree on a Temporary or Permanent Parenting Plan?

No. The law does not require the Judge to send the parties to mediation. The Judge is allowed to send the parties to mediation at any time during the process.

Where can I get a list of available Rule 31 family mediators in my district?

The Administrative Office of the Courts keeps a current list of family mediators on this website

What if there is an allegation of domestic violence in the case? Do the parties have to go to mediation?

No. “If an order of protection issued in or recognized by this State is in effect or if there is a court finding of domestic abuse or criminal conviction involving domestic abuse within the marriage which is the subject of the proceeding for divorce or separate support and maintenance, the court may order mediation or refer the parties to mediation only if: (1) Mediation is agreed to by the victim of the alleged domestic or family violence; (2) Mediation is provided by a certified mediator who is trained in domestic and family violence in a specialized manner that protects the safety of the victim; and (3) The victim is permitted to have in attendance at mediation a supporting person of his or her choice, including, but not limited to, an attorney or advocate. No victim may provide monetary compensation to a non-attorney advocate for attendance at mediation. The other party may also have in attendance at mediation a supporting person of his or her choice, including, but not limited to, an attorney or advocate.” T.C.A. § 36-6-409(e).

Does the Administrative Office of the Courts keep a list of those Rule 31 family mediators trained in domestic violence?

Yes. This list can be found here.

Who certifies the Parenting Education providers?

The Parenting Education providers are certified by each of the individual judicial districts. Some districts have set up a group or commission to certify the providers.

What are the minimum requirements for the certification of a Parenting Education program?

“The seminar shall educate parents concerning how to protect and enhance the child’s emotional development and informing the parents regarding the legal process. The seminar shall also include a discussion of alternative dispute resolution, marriage counseling, the judicial process, and common perpetrator attitudes and conduct involving domestic violence. The program may be divided into sessions, which in aggregate shall not be less then four (4) hours in duration.” T.C.A. § 36-6-408(a). The Parenting Plan Manual also has some suggested requirements for certifying Parenting Education programs.

What if I have no certified Parenting Education providers in my district or county?

There will be certified Parenting Education providers in adjacent counties or districts. It is suggested that the Court make arrangements with adjacent counties and/or districts to coordinate the certification of providers so that parents may have a wider selection of providers.

How will I know if the parties have completed the Parenting Education?

The providers should give a certificate of satisfactory completion to the parent and send a copy to the Court for entry into the file. Also, the provider should send a list of all parents who have completed each seminar to the Court. The certificate sent to the Court should have the docket number to insure that it ends up in the proper file.

What happens if one of the parties does not complete the Parenting Education? Can I deny the granting of the divorce?

“No court shall deny the granting of a divorce from the bonds of matrimony for failure of a party or both parties to attend the educational session.” T.C.A. § 36-6-408(c). However, the Court may issue a Show Cause Order to the party or parties not attending the seminar. In addition, the Court must consider that factor when determining the division of parenting time and decision-making. T.C.A. § 36-6-404(b)(4).

Are the parties filing post-divorce petitions required to attend Parenting Education as well?

Yes. “In an action where a permanent parenting plan is or will be entered each parent shall attend a parent educational seminars as soon as possible after the filing of the complaint.” T.C.A. § 36-6-408(a). Since both final decrees and decrees of modifications require the incorporation of permanent parenting plans, the parties to a post-divorce petition are required to attend the seminars.