Can a Parent Move with a Child Out of Tennessee?

This question comes up often in family law cases. It can come up during a divorce proceeding or after a divorce has occurred and there is already a parenting plan (visitation schedule) ordered from the Court. It can come up with parents who have never been married, but now one of the parents wishes to move out of the state of Tennessee. This situation is governed by Tennessee Code Annotated 36-6-108:

The parent spending the greater amount of time with the child shall be permitted to relocate with the child unless the court finds:

  1. Relocation does not have a reasonable purpose
  2. The relocation would pose a threat of specificand serious harm to the child that outweighs the threat of harm to the child of a change of custody; or
  3. The parent’s move for relocating with the child is vindictive in that it is intended to defeat or deter visitation rights of the non-custodial parent or the parent spending less time with the child.

What this all means is that the parent who spends to most time with the child gets a presumption in their favor that it is okay to relocate with the child. If the “other” parent has an issue with the relocation, then the “other” parent would have to show one of the three scenarios listed above.


What is an example of a reasonable purpose? The most common one is probably relocation for work. However, it still isn’t clear cut. If you are working at McDonalds in Murfreesboro, TN and you are moving to work at McDonalds in another state; then the “other” parent would most likely when the argument that there is no reasonable purpose.

Subsection (2) is comparing the harm suffered by relocating the child in relation to changing custody to the “other” parent. The Court would be looking at what is in the best interest of the child in the two comparisons.

Subsection (3) is pretty much spells it out in plain language. If the custodial parent is relocating just to be mean to the non-custodial parent, then that is not supposed to happen. Remember, the burden of proof will be on the non-custodial parent.

If you have this situation or questions concerning this situation, please call my office at 615.473.1006 or email questions

If you would like to set up an office visit, we can do that as well. Consultations are of no charge and office is conveniently located in Murfreesboro, TN.