The laws of Tennessee clearly outline the rights and responsibilities of married couples who choose to divorce, both to one another and to their children. However, we at Parker and LaDuke have observed that the laws have not always kept up with the current trend of couples choosing to start families without the formality of first getting married. Consumer Affairs confirms that, while there are fewer laws and statutes on the books pertaining to the rights and responsibilities of an unmarried couple that chooses to split up, parents’ responsibilities to their children are largely the same regardless of whether or not the couple was ever married. Couples, attorneys and courts alike are learning how to cope with these issues as they arise.
You and your partner may intend to stay together forever, but keep in mind that no one gets involved in a romantic relationship with the intention of breaking up. It may be a good idea for you and your partner to draw up a parenting agreement now in the hopes that you never need it but in the interest of making matters easier on both you and your children in the event that you do someday split up.
You can think of a parenting agreement as comparable to a prenuptial agreement, except that instead of addressing the issue of property division, it aims to address concerns pertaining to your children in the event of a breakup. Hopefully, the plan will never go into effect, but if it does, the law will recognize it in most cases. The goals of a parenting agreement include the following:
- Establish the authority and responsibility of each parent
- Protect the best interest of the child
- Minimize harmful exposure to parental conflict
- Provide for the child’s physical and emotional care
When a married couple divorces, the divorce agreement includes a parenting plan. Since there can be no divorce agreement if a couple has never married, legal procedures must adapt to reflect each couple’s particular circumstances. More information about child custody and co-parenting issues is available on our website.