When the outcome of a divorce or child custody case is at stake, you need to consult with a competent attorney to advise you of your rights. We will help guide you through the legal process and ensure that you understand the road ahead. Please feel free to review the summary information below, and click on the header of any topic to learn more detailed information.
Divorce can be a very difficult time in your life. Whether you are dealing with an Agreed or Contested divorce, it is important to understand your rights and obligations. Divorce can involve a myriad of issues, including child custody, child support, alimony, payments of debts, distribution of assets and real property, division of retirement assets and payment of attorney’s fees. All of these issues must be addressed by a final settlement or by the court.
Agreed divorces can occur when both spouses consent to getting the divorce itself, and also agree upon the terms and conditions of dividing up assets and debts. When children are involved, a parenting schedule and child support must also be decided upon in advance. Once the final settlement documents (a Marital Dissolution Agreement and Parenting Plan) are signed, notarized and filed, your divorce can be finalized quickly after the waiting periods. For divorces with no minor children involved, the waiting period is 60 days. For those with children, the waiting period is 90 days.
A contested divorce is initiated by one spouse filing a Complaint and having the other spouse served. Once a divorce has been filed, both spouses must then be sure to abide by the automatic statutory injunctions and attend at least one mediation. If mediation fails to produce a settlement, then the attorneys will usually engage in discovery and prepare your case for trial.
There are many grounds for divorce in Tennessee. For those seeking an uncontested or agreed divorce, the ground of irreconcilable differences is used. For those in a contested divorce, grounds may include adultery, inappropriate marital conduct, habitual drug or alcohol use, impotency, or desertion, among others.
Child support in Tennessee is calculated pursuant to the Tennessee Child Support Guidelines. These Guidelines define what is considered income, when a person is underemployed, how and when child support may be modified, and how retroactive support is determined. Generally, a child support obligation will depend upon both parties’ incomes, amount of time spend with the children, daycare costs and insurance costs.
Child custody is a bit of a misnomer in the divorce context, as our courts now use the term “co-parenting.” Co-parents are either the Primary Residential Parent or the Alternate Residential Parent. A primary parent must be designated even if the parties share time exactly fifty-fifty. In the non-divorce context, a party may need to file in Juvenile Court for custody of a minor in the event that a parent or guardian is unfit or unable to provide adequate care. Unmarried parents may also need to file to establish a co-parenting schedule even when there is no abuse or neglect.
Parties may be able to settle their co-parenting issues, or they may need mediation or a trial in court. Regardless, there are many details that need to be addressed. These include: a daily schedule; a holiday schedule; child support; tax exemptions; decision making; primary parent designation; how health and life insurance will be handled; and how uninsured medical costs will be paid. If a case goes to trial, a court will consider a variety of factors ranging from the age of the children to each parent’s ability to provide.
Parents seeking to modify a parenting plan after being signed by a court, whether a divorce court or juvenile court, must first attempt mediation. Should mediation fail to result in settlement, then a petition to modify must be filed. The moving party must then prove a material change of circumstances has arisen since the date of the last court order. If that is proven, then the court will perform a best interests review.
Orders of protection are available for those who are suffering abuse, violence or threats of violence. These orders can provide for exclusive possession of a residence and/or temporary support payments.
Paternity actions are required to establish parentage and/or child support. These are also required prior to seeking to establish a co-parenting schedule. Once paternity is established, child support can be calculated.
Mediation is required in almost every divorce case in Tennessee and in many juvenile court custody matters. Mediation is an informal process where a third party mediator facilitates a settlement agreement. This saves the parties the time and expense of going to trial and allows for additional flexibility.
Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements allow for parties to protect their assets and income in the event of divorce. These agreements can also dictate how jointly acquired property and income is distributed. These agreements take out the unknown and can reduce the cost of litigation.
Appeals must be filed within thirty (30) days of any final order. Appeals are appropriate when a trial court has abused its discretion or made a clear legal or factual error. Appeals often result in a remand to the trial court for additional hearings or determinations.
We are aggressive and strive to be understanding and compassionate in a legal arena that is fraught with intense emotional issues that touch on the most highly personal issues in an individual’s life.
At this firm, we understand that it is our job to help steer you through the litigation process and to help you make rational, practical decisions that will be of the greatest benefit to you, your children, and your financial well-being.
Please contact us today so that we may protect your rights. Please be aware that the law in Tennessee is constantly changing and the information supplied on this site is not to be used in lieu of seeking legal advice directly from an attorney. If you have a specific question or would like to speak with an attorney discuss your case, please call our office for a free consultation so that we may address your unique legal situation.