Crisis In The Family Courts

Tennessee Lawmakers Impose 50/50 Child Splitting


Quote from abuse denier Richard Gardner, Father of Parental Alienation Syndrome


Several Tennessee lawmakers have sponsored legislation this year that would be very harmful to children reducing them to time-sharing property with no regard for their feelings or best interest. House Bill 2916/Senate Bill 2881 sponsors are Mike Bell, Stacey Campfield, G.A. Hardaway, Dewayne Bunch, and Bill Ketron. This bill would force the children of divorced or unmarried parents to spend 50 percent of time at one house and 50 percent at another. This is a foolish recommendation for any person to be subjected to. Would any of these legislators like to be forced by court order to not stay at the home of their choice, but be ordered to stay elsewhere because a law has been passed that says they must be subjected to this?  It stands to reason that if the lawmakers themselves were subjected to this, it would not even be considered.

It is most harmful to children in abusive situations as a parent who needs to protect their child will have their hands tied. There is already a culture of abuse deniers who fail to protect children who report abuse. This bill will only add insult to injury. It isn’t just bad for mothers who often leave relationships due to domestic violence, but it is also bad for protective fathers. If a father is trying to protect a child who may be reporting sexual abuse by mom’s boyfriend or husband, that father will be forced to send his child into an abusive situation 50 percent of the time. Also, since proving abuse is so incredibly difficult on par with winning the lottery, a protective dad may be accused of making false allegations or of having the fictitious Parental Alienation Syndrome (although it is almost always mothers accused of this). This bill ties the hands of judges and totally ignores the wants and needs of a child. Even in situations where there is no abuse, forcing a child to live in two different homes 50 percent of the time has already been shown to not work as it interferes with child care, education, friendships, and extracurricular activities.

The bill summary follows:

Under present law, the court has the widest discretion to order a custody arrangement that is in the best interest of the child.

Unless the court finds by clear and convincing evidence to the contrary, there is a presumption that joint custody is in the best interest of a minor child where the parents have agreed to joint custody or so agree in open court at a hearing for the purpose of determining the custody of the minor child. For the purpose of assisting the court in making a determination whether an award of joint custody is appropriate, the court may direct that an investigation be conducted. The burden of proof necessary to modify an order of joint custody at a subsequent proceeding is by a preponderance of the evidence.

This bill removes the above provisions regarding joint custody. Instead, under this bill, at any hearing to determine custody of a minor child, the court must order that the child get equal time with each of the child’s parents unless the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that one or both of the parents are unfit to care for the child. This bill would not prohibit both fit parents from voluntarily entering into a parenting plan that does not give the child equal time with each parent, nor would it prohibit the court from giving the child less than equal time with a parent that does not seek equal time with the child. This bill authorizes a court to direct that an investigation be conducted for the purpose of assisting the court in making a custody determination when a parent has been proven to be unfit.

Fiscal notes on the bill show no added cost to the state, but lists this assumption as a concern: 

There may be an increase in the amount of hearing time necessary for adjudicating matters of parenting time.

Several articles have been published recently showing opposition to this proposed legislation:

TN bill on divorce would require equal custody of children

‘One size fits all’ is for clothes, not for kids

Court must have discretion to put children’s needs first

Custody bill goes too far

‘Equal parenting time’ bill won’t benefit all children

The only article that supports the bill was written by one of the sponsors, Senator Dewayne Bunch, who is a Baptist attorney. He claims that his points of view are universally accepted, despite the fact that his viewpoints are not universally accepted. The title of the opinion piece that this custody amendment will allow more leeway in custody decisions, rather than less, is also the opposite of reality. See: Amendment gives court more leeway in ruling

What isn’t being addressed in this forced child splitting bill is the issue of child support. Usually when time is equally split, child support is either not awarded or greatly reduced. It might even end up that women could be paying men after the mother is deprived of her child by court order rather than because her child chooses to live apart from her. Looking further into child custody and support legislation it appears that such a bill to eliminate child support has been proposed.

SB1096 by Stanley/HB0877 by Hensley Child Custody and Support – As introduced, prohibits a court from ordering either parent to pay child support to the other parent if both parents have been awarded and are going to be exercising a substantially equal amount of parenting time with the child or children of the marriage. – Amends TCA Title 36, Chapter 5, Part 1.

There is also proposed legislation to prohibit any change in custody when there is a domestic violence protective order, by Bunch again, along with G.A. Hardaway of DADS-Dads Against Discrimination (as if men who control the 3 branches of federal government and have the majority percentage in every state legislature in the U.S. are discriminated against???).

SB1252 by Bunch/HB1133 by Hardaway – As introduced, prohibits changing of custodial arrangements due to an order of protection against the custodial parent unless the child is the victim of child abuse or the effects of domestic violence. – Amends TCA Title 36, Chapter 6.

And some of the same legislators have also sponsored this legislation which allows someone subject to supervised visitation to select their own supervisor.

SB1266 by Bunch/HB1132 by Hardaway – As introduced, authorizes parent or guardian who pays for supervision of child visitation to select provider of supervision services. – Amends TCA Title 36, Chapter 6.

And this group of lawmakers have also created a chilling effect on protective parents and incest victims by making it a crime to raise allegations if they can’t be proven. This will doom sexual abuse/incest victims to be with their perpetrators until age 18 unless they somehow get a video to police or become pregnant and have DNA evidence.

SB 1264 by *Bunch. (*HB 1130 by *Hardaway, Campfield.)

Domestic Relations – As introduced, requires court to hold in contempt any person who makes false accusation of sexual abuse in furtherance of litigation; also requires false accuser to pay other party’s litigation costs. – Amends TCA Title 19; Title 20; Title 21 and Title 36.

Bill Summary


AMENDMENT #1 makes various revisions to this bill, as follows:

(1) Clarifies that this bill applies to “false allegations” instead of “false accusations”;

(2) Specifies that the court may hold the violator in “contempt” instead of “criminal contempt” and that the penalties provided for in this bill would be in addition to all other penalties provided for by law or rule; and

(3) Clarifies that the violator would be ordered to pay all litigation expenses, including, but not limited to, the reasonable attorney’s fees, discretionary costs and other costs.

AMENDMENT #2 makes the order to pay litigation expenses permissive instead of mandatory.

    Checking into the backgrounds of these sponsors, they seem to have an agenda to keep women married despite domestic violence or child abuse. These bills are atrocious for victims and show that patriarchal domination is being spread through legislation. Mothers are not free to leave abusers in Tennessee or anywhere in the United States for that matter. With the father’s rights agenda, women are routinely accused of lying when they are being truthful and children are routinely forced against their will to spend time with abusive fathers. Those mothers and children who protest or try to escape from this abuse are accused of fictitious mental disorders such as parental alienation, or anything else they can get away with, resulting in full custody being given to the abuser. Protections that are supposedly in place for abuse victims have created a cottage industry for the “Abuse Deniers.” For large profits the “Abuse Deniers” (lawyers and experts and abusers) accuse victims of lying and destroy children’s lives with little or no recourse for the victim or protective parent.

    (China lists this abuse of women and children in the U.S. as a Human Rights violation in their March, 2010 report)

    Tennessee is known for giving custody to fathers. A recent case where a man  brought his Japanese wife and children to Tennessee then promptly divorced her and remarried, effectly trapping the mother in the U.S. highlighted why other countries, such as Japan choose to protect their women and children. That man was still married under Japanese law as he was married there and was a Japanese citizen. Japan does not allow dual citizenship, so by becoming a Japanese citizen he gave up his US citizenship. He was committing bigamy, yet under TN/US law, TN granted him custody rights. His purpose in bringing his wife and children to Tennessee was so he could divorce under laws that would be favorable to him.

    This bill rewards people who are abusive and also people who are unfaithful. The injured party suffers punishment when a spouse either abuses them or is unfaithful. With this bill, if someone files for divorce, because of abuse or infidelity, they will be punished by losing their child 50 percent of the time, and the party at fault will be rewarded by taking the child 50 percent of the time from the injured party. This is non-gender specific and will punish whoever has worked at the relationship, and will reward or ignore bad behavior. This bad behavior can then serve as a model to the children that no matter how they act, the outcome will be the same, so why be good.

    The sponsors of this custody bill need to be told that their agenda is not what the people want. It may be what abusive men want, but good fathers don’t force children to spend time with them against their will and they don’t deprive children of their mothers to get out of supporting them, or to intentionally inflict emotional abuse.

    SB2881 has been placed on the Senate Judiciary Committee calendar for 04/06/2010. Dewayne Bunch, one of the bill sponsors is on this committee.

    Committee Officers

  • Mae Beavers, Chair     615-741-2421

  • Doug Jackson, Vice-Chair     615-741-4499

  • Doug Overbey, Secretary     615-741-0981


      • Diane Black     615-741-1999

      • Dewayne Bunch     615-741-3730

      • Mike Faulk     615-741-2061

      • Brian Kelsey     615-741-3036

      • Jim Kyle     615-741-4167

      • Beverly Marrero     615-741-9128

          HB2916 has been placed on calendar for the Children and Family Affairs Committee on 04/06/2010. With 3 of the bill sponsors on this committee one wonders if anyone would dare oppose them.

          Committee Officers

          • John DeBerry, Chair     615-741-2239

          • Kevin Brooks, Vice-Chair     615-741-1350

          • Tommie Brown, Secretary     615-741-4374


              • Mike Bell     615-741-1946

              • Stacey Campfield     615-741-2287

              • G. A. Hardaway     615-741-5625

              • Sherry Jones     615-741-2035

              • Barrett Rich     615-741-6890

              • Jeanne Richardson     615-741-2010

              • Donna Rowland     615-741-2804

              • Johnny Shaw     615-741-4538

              • Terri Lynn Weaver     615-741-2192

                  Please call or email these legislators with your opinion on this bill.



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