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Opinion on Overnight Visitors with Unmarried Parents

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     Many Tennessee courts and attorneys by reflex insert parenting plan provisions prohibiting residential parents from allowing overnight visitation by “paramours” or “members of the opposite sex to whom they are not married”.

    The Court of Appeals for the western section of Tennessee recently struck down a local rule in Gibson County requiring similar language in all permanent parenting plans. Barker v. Chandler (September 18, 2009) was widely publicized because it struck application of the mandatory language to a mother and her same sex partner who are not allowed by Tennessee law to marry.

     The decision has wider implications for all parents who may be cohabitating or involved in other relationships without the benefit of marriage. The court noted that Tennessee statutes and court opinions require “that trial judges make decisions regarding residential parenting of children ‘upon the basis of the best interest of the child’”

     Trial courts in Tennessee following the western section’s opinion will almost certainly be allowed to consider a parent’s relationships and living arrangements, but those factors will have to be balanced with all others presented to the court when making parenting decisions in the best interests of the child.

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