Sobieski, Messer & Associates, PLLC
Potential clients can contact us at: 865.223.5586 Existing clients can contact us at: 865.546.7770
Complex problems deserve personalized attention
Child Custody

An Overview of Child Custody in Knoxville

Guiding you through the difficult child custody process

Divorce ends marital relationships, but it does not end the relationship between parents and their children. Nonetheless, the parent-child relationship is drastically altered by divorce.

The child custody attorneys at Sobieski, Messer & Associates, PLLC work to make the resolution of the custody issue as painless as possible for everyone involved, but most importantly for your children. We will explain what your options are and we will help you understand the way the judges look at custody matters. We provide you with the attention you deserve and guide you through the difficult divorce and child custody process.

Experienced Child custody Attorneys in Knoxville, TN

As a child custody law firm in Knoxville, we work to amicably resolve your child custody dispute through settlement or mediation. If a resolution cannot be reached, we are prepared to represent you in court and use our knowledge of Tennessee child custody law and trial experience for you.

A child custody attorney like the ones at Sobieski, Messer & Associates, PLLC will assist you in preparing a parenting plan and finding a parenting class, both of which are required by Tennessee law if children are involved in a divorce. The parenting plan sets forth what you and your spouse will do for your children:

  • Where the children will live
  • Which parent the children will stay with on holidays, vacations and birthdays
  • The amount of child support to be paid
  • How you will make decisions about the children's welfare, including medical care, education, religion and extracurricular activities.
  • How you will resolve any future disagreements about the children

If there has been a material change in circumstances that affects your child custody arrangement, we can file a petition to modify custody and appear in court on your behalf.

Is joint or sole custody right for your child?

Every family is unique and every situation is different, which is why it is important to have an experienced Knoxville divorce attorney on your side. To accommodate for these unique circumstances, Tennessee has different types of custody arrangements. Two of the common types are joint and sole custody.

Sole custody

The more traditional form of custody is sole or full custody, in which one parent is named as the custodial parent and has the legal responsibility and physical care and control of the child, and the other parent has visitation rights.

The custodial parent often has the ultimate decision-making authority about the child, including religious upbringing and changes in surname.

Joint custody

Over the last 20 years, joint custody has received a lot of attention and is sometimes the preferred custody arrangement. In Tennessee, there is a presumption in favor of joint custody if both parents agree.

Parents sharing custody share the legal responsibilities and physical care and custody of their child. There are many factors to take into account when considering joint custody:

  • The parents’ ability to cooperate and share
  • Physical limitations
  • Expenses
  • The child’s preferences and needs

Parenting Plans

Now all divorcing parents must enter (or the court must order) a Permanent Parenting Plan for all minor children.

The parent who has the children more than 50 percent of the time is the "Primary Residential Parent." The parent having less than 50 percent of the time with the children is known as the "Alternate Residential Parent." The term "custody" is no longer the preferred term, although many courts and attorneys still use it.

Good Basic Co-Parenting

Do Nots

  • Do not use the children as messengers. Ask all questions and send all information directly to the other parent.
  • Do not criticize, say or imply anything negative about the other parent (or that parent’s relatives, the step-parents, the step-siblings, friends, home, plans, motives, judgment, etc.) to the children or where the children might hear. Control your facial expressions and body language too.
  • Do not ask for information from the children about the other parent (what the parent says or does, or with whom) or the other parent’s household.
  • Do not discuss the litigation.
    • Do not say what you are hoping will happen.
    • Do not say when things in litigation are to happen.
    • Do not say what might happen in the future of the litigation.
  • Do not blame the other parent for anything (even if they deserve it).
  • Do not treat your children as confidants; do not share your grief, anger or sadness with the children.
  • Do not schedule anything for the children during the other parent’s time without advance agreement or tell the children about things they might have to miss to go to the other parent.


  •  Do make sure the children know that they are not, in any way, the cause of the divorce.
  • Do focus on having a good time in the moment with your children.
  • Do show the children it is fine for them to have a good time with the other parent/step‑parent/step-siblings/relatives (help make or send gifts/cards for them).
  • Do let the children know it is ok to love the other parent (after all, you thought you loved the other parent at some time).

Contact an experienced child custody law attorney

The attorneys at Sobieski, Messer & Associates, PLLC handle child custody law in Knoxville, TN and the surrounding areas. Our office is located in Historic Downtown Knoxville. We have fixed hourly rates. For more information, call 865.223.5586 or contact us online.

Sobieski, Messer & Associates, PLLC
612 Gay Street, 5th Floor
Knoxville, Tennessee, 37902-1603 USA