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When you decided to divorce, you determined that you were not going to let it ruin your children’s lives. You understood that there would likely be challenges, but you figured that with lots of love and support to go around, you’d all fare as well as possible as you helped each other move on toward a happy, new lifestyle.

You achieved what you felt was a fair and agreeable settlement, and things seemed to be going well at first. You’re not so sure about that nowadays, however, since your children recently told you that their other parent had been consuming quite a bit of alcohol before driving them home from a restaurant. You know you must adhere to the existing court order for visitation rights, but you also want to keep your children safe.

What can you do?

There’s a major difference between disagreeing with your former spouse about household rules, such as bedtimes, chores or other minor issues, and actually fearing for your children’s safety and well-being. The following information may help point you in the right direction if you believe your children are at risk in your current visitation arrangement:

  • What you do about the situation may depend on the situation itself. For instance, if you believe your children call you while staying with their other parent to report physical abuse, you can take immediate action by calling the police.
  • If you believe your former spouse is making irresponsible choices, such as drinking and driving, you can reach out for support before the next visitation date arrives.
  • If you accuse your former spouse of placing your children’s safety at risk, you can expect the court to order an investigation of the situation.
  • An investigation may include family protective services coming to your home to speak with you or to request an interview your children.
  • During an investigation, the court may determine it best to order temporary supervised visits in modification of your current agreement.
  • You may be able to file for sole physical custody of your children with permanent supervised visits, and limited visits at that, if you believe it is in your children’s best interests to do so.

Your spouse may become very angry at you when you take action against his or her unsafe behavior during visits with your children. If, at any time, your former spouse threatens you or your kids, you likely could file for a protective order. A violation of such an order can lead to serious legal problems for the offending spouse, including time in jail.

Who can help?

Divorce is an emotional experience on its own without the additional stress added by a parent’s unsafe actions concerning the children. Many Tennessee parents reach out to experienced family law attorneys to speak on their behalves to further protect themselves and their kids as they try to rectify such problems.