Divorce in Tennessee

Here is a good place to start navigating your divorce

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Divorce: Now what? Let us summarize it

Both contested and uncontested divorces can cause a tremendous amount of stress. Our Clients typically ask what divorce will mean for their children, their home, their retirement, and their debts. I often speak with individuals who feel broken and need guidance on what they should do.​Trust is the foundation of our relationship with clients. We focus on active listening and communication to reduce the amount of anxiety typically felt by our clients in divorce. Time spent talking with our clients is never a waste. From our initial consultation, we discuss what divorce will likely mean for you. We want to know your concerns and what “success” means to you. After our initial consultation we meet with you to review your concerns and discuss many of our clients concerns such as:

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Child Custody

Comprehensive legal support for child custody cases, tailored to your unique situation.

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Parenting Time

Our team has years of experience in handling child custody matters.

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Property Division

We will work closely with you to develop a strategy that suits your needs.

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Maintenance (Alimony)

Understanding the definition of alimony and the various court considerations in determining alimony awards is crucial for individuals going through a divorce in Tennessee.

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Retirement Account Division, etc.

Let us fight for your rights as a parent and ensure the best interests of your children.

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The Wise Approach

Our goal, as your divorce attorney, is to reduce your fear of the unknown in regard to your divorce.

Tennessee FAQs

Providing personalized legal solutions for your family's needs.

How long does it take to get divorced in Tennessee?

In Tennessee, there is no specific timeline for how long it takes to get divorced. However, there are waiting periods that must be observed before a divorce can be finalized. If the parties involved have no children, there is a "cooling off" period of 60 days. If there are minor children, the waiting period is extended to 90 days.

It's important to note that these waiting periods are intended to provide an opportunity for the parties to reconsider their decision and potentially reconcile. However, if the parties are certain about their desire to divorce, the waiting periods must still be observed.

The actual duration of a divorce process can vary significantly depending on various factors. Uncontested divorces, where the parties agree on all issues and there are no disputes, can be finalized relatively quickly. In such cases, the divorce process may be completed within a few months.

On the other hand, contested divorces, where there are disagreements and disputes over issues such as child custody, property division, or spousal support, can take much longer. These cases may involve extensive negotiations, court hearings, and potentially even trials. As a result, the duration of a contested divorce can range from approximately eight months to several years of litigation.

What are the legal grounds for divorce?

In Tennessee, there are several legal grounds for divorce. These grounds include:  

1. Impotence: One spouse is physically unable to engage in sexual intercourse.

2. Prior existing marriage: One spouse was already married to someone else at the time of the current marriage.

3. Adultery: One spouse engaged in a sexual relationship outside of the marriage.

4. Desertion: One spouse abandoned the other without a reasonable cause for at least one year.

5. Infamy: One spouse has a reputation for being involved in criminal activities or immoral behavior.

6. Conviction of a felony: One spouse has been convicted of a felony and is currently imprisoned.

7. Attempt on life of spouse: One spouse has made a deliberate attempt to harm or kill the other spouse.

8. Refusal to follow to Tennessee: One spouse has refused to move to Tennessee with the other spouse.

9. Pregnancy by another at marriage: The wife was pregnant with another man's child at the time of the marriage.

10. Habitual drunkenness or drug abuse: One spouse has a persistent problem with alcohol or drug abuse.

11. Cruel treatment: One spouse has subjected the other to physical or emotional abuse.

12. Indignities: One spouse has treated the other with such cruelty or disrespect as to render their living together intolerable.

13. Abandonment and non-support: One spouse has willfully abandoned the other and failed to provide financial support for at least one year.

14. Irreconcilable differences: The spouses have experienced a breakdown of the marriage with no hope of reconciliation.

15. Legal separation for two years: The spouses have lived separately and apart for at least two years under a legal separation agreement.

It's important to consult with a family law attorney to understand the specific laws and requirements regarding divorce grounds in your case. An attorney can provide guidance based on the unique circumstances of your situation and help you navigate the legal process effectively.

What is the difference between divorce and legal separation?

Legal separation and divorce are two different legal processes that couples can pursue when they no longer wish to live together as a married couple. Here are the key differences between the two:

Legal Status: In a divorce, the marriage is legally terminated, and the parties are no longer married. In a legal separation, the marriage remains intact, but the parties live separately and have a formal agreement regarding their rights and responsibilities.

Matrimonial Cohabitation: In a legal separation, the parties cease living together as a married couple but are still legally married. In a divorce, the parties no longer live together and are no longer married.

Grounds: The grounds for legal separation are the same as those for divorce. These grounds can include issues such as adultery, cruelty, abandonment, or irreconcilable differences.

Process: Both legal separation and divorce involve a legal process that requires filing the necessary paperwork with the court. However, the specific procedures and requirements may differ between the two processes.

Financial and Custody Arrangements: In both legal separation and divorce, the court can address issues related to child custody, child support, spousal support, and division of assets and debts. The court can make orders regarding these matters based on the best interests of the parties involved.

Marital Status: In a legal separation, the parties are still legally married and cannot remarry. In a divorce, the parties are no longer married and are free to remarry if they choose to do so.

How expensive is divorce?

The cost of a divorce can vary depending on various factors, such as the complexity of the case, the level of conflict between the parties, and the need for litigation. In general, divorces can become expensive when there are disputes that require extensive legal proceedings to reach a resolution.

The average cost of a contested divorce, where issues such as alimony and property division are contested, is approximately $17,000. This includes expenses related to legal representation, court filings, and other associated costs. However, it's important to note that the cost can vary significantly depending on the specific circumstances of the case.

At Wise & Associates, they strive to minimize attorneys' fees through their approach of "staged flat fees." This means that they charge a predetermined fee for specific stages of the divorce process, which helps to provide transparency and predictability in billing. Wise & Associates has an average divorce cost of approximately $6,000, which is significantly lower compared to other divorce law firms in Tennessee. Their aim is to provide quality legal representation at a more affordable rate.

It's important to consult with a family law attorney to understand the specific implications and considerations of divorce in your jurisdiction. An attorney can provide guidance based on the unique circumstances of your case and help you navigate the legal process effectively.

Can my ex pay for my attorneys’ fees?

In a divorce case, it is possible for one spouse to be ordered to pay for the other spouse's attorney's fees. However, this is not automatic and requires specific actions to be taken.

To have your ex-spouse pay for your attorney's fees, you must include a request for fees in your pleadings. This means that you need to specifically ask the court to order your ex-spouse to cover your attorney's fees.

There are two ways in which your ex-spouse may agree to pay for your attorney's fees. First, you and your ex-spouse can come to an agreement outside of court where they agree to cover your fees. Second, if you cannot reach an agreement, you can request the court to award you attorney's fees as part of the divorce settlement.

It's important to note that courts are generally not inclined to award attorney's fees unless certain conditions are met. Typically, attorney's fees are awarded when one party prevails at trial or when a default judgment is granted. This means that you would need to be successful in your case or have your ex-spouse fail to respond to the divorce proceedings in order for the court to consider awarding attorney's fees.

How are businesses divided in a divorce?

In Tennessee, the division of a business in a divorce depends on various factors. Generally, a business is considered a source of income for one spouse rather than a divisible asset. As a result, the business may not always be divided between the spouses.

However, there are situations where a business can be divided equally if both parties agree to it. In such cases, the spouses may decide to divide the business in a way that is fair and equitable.

Alternatively, one spouse may choose to keep the business in their own name and offset the value of the business with another marital asset. This means that the spouse who retains the business may compensate the other spouse with a different asset of equal value.

The division of a business in a divorce can be complex and may require the assistance of professionals such as business valuation experts or financial advisors. These experts can help determine the value of the business and provide guidance on the best approach for dividing it.

In Tennessee, what is alimony and how is spousal support decided?

In Tennessee, alimony, also known as spousal support, can be awarded to either spouse based on certain criteria. To be eligible for alimony, the requesting party must prove the validity of the marriage and the length of the marriage, with a minimum requirement of seven years for full alimony. They must also demonstrate their need for financial support and the ability of the other spouse to provide that support.

The decision to award alimony lies within the discretion of the trial court. The primary factors considered are the financial need of the supported party and the ability of the supporting party to provide the necessary support. The court has the authority to determine the manner and form of support, including the payment of insurance premiums for health or life insurance.

When the supported party has no recent employment history or would face difficulty finding suitable employment due to age or health, periodic alimony is often awarded if the supporting party has the financial means to provide support. On the other hand, if the supported party is young and has a recent history of earnings, the court may award rehabilitative alimony or transitional alimony, depending on the circumstances.

Rehabilitative alimony is typically awarded when the supported party requires financial assistance to obtain education or training that will enable them to become self-supporting. Transitional alimony, on the other hand, is awarded to assist the supported party during a specific period of transition, such as relocating or adjusting to a new financial situation.

How much spousal support will I have to pay?

The determination of the amount of spousal support, also known as alimony, is at the discretion of the trial judge and varies on a case-by-case basis. The judge has wide latitude in deciding the amount and type of alimony, whether it be in gross (a lump sum), periodic (regular payments), rehabilitative (support to help the recipient become self-supporting), or transitional (support during a specific period of transition).

The primary factors considered in determining the amount of alimony are the needs of one party and the other party's ability to pay. This is because, in most cases, the total needs of the recipient exceed the available assets and income. The income available for support may also include the potential for either party to obtain or increase their income through employment.

The specific criteria for determining alimony in Tennessee are outlined in the statute. These criteria include the duration of the marriage, the ages and health of the parties, their earning abilities and economic disadvantages, their obligations and needs, their assets and income, education and training, child care responsibilities, property division, standard of living during the marriage, and other relevant factors such as fault or contributions to the marriage.

Other factors that have been considered by the courts include the manner of accumulation of the parties' estates, dissipation of assets, the presence of children, the physical condition of each party, and the need for restitution or reimbursement.

The statutory policy in Tennessee recognizes the equal importance of the contribution of the homemaker spouse and the economic contributor. After the divorce, the goal is to maintain a reasonably comparable standard of living for both parties.

Can I modify child custody?

Yes, it is possible to modify child custody arrangements if there has been a significant change in circumstances that affects the best interests of the child. It is recommended to consult with a family law attorney to navigate the modification process.

How long will I have to pay spousal support?

The duration of spousal support, also known as alimony, is determined by the trial judge and can vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case. The judge has significant discretion in deciding the manner and form of payment.

In enforcing an alimony order, the judge may order an immediate wage assignment, which means that a portion of the obligor's income is automatically deducted and paid towards the alimony obligation. This wage assignment typically cannot exceed 50% of the obligor's income.

If the order is for legal separation or there is a decree of separate maintenance, it is common for periodic alimony to be awarded rather than alimony in a lump sum (alimony in gross).Alimony terminates upon the death of either party, unless there is an express agreement stating otherwise. Additionally, alimony terminates if the supported party remarries.

In divorces based on irreconcilable differences, which is a no-fault ground for divorce in Tennessee, alimony can be awarded to either spouse. This means that either the husband or the wife may be entitled to receive alimony depending on the circumstances of the case.

In Tennessee, can spousal support be modified?

In Tennessee, spousal support, also known as alimony, can be modified under certain circumstances. The principal criteria for determining alimony are the financial need of the recipient and the ability of the paying spouse to provide support.

Modifications to spousal support can be made if there are permanent changes in certain conditions. These conditions include:

1. Obligor's earnings or earning capacity: If the paying spouse's income or ability to earn income significantly changes, a modification to the spousal support order may be warranted.

2. Obligee's earnings or earning capacity: If the recipient spouse's income or ability to earn income changes, it may impact their need for spousal support and could lead to a modification.

3. Change in the needs of the obligee: If the financial needs of the recipient spouse change, such as due to health issues or other circumstances, it may justify a modification of the spousal support order.

4. Remarriage of the obligee: If the recipient spouse remarries, it can be grounds for terminating or modifying the spousal support order.

5. Remarriage of the obligor: If the paying spouse remarries, it may impact their financial situation and could be a basis for modifying the spousal support order.

6. Subsequent misconduct: If either spouse engages in misconduct that affects their financial situation, it may be considered in a modification request.

7. Violation of the provisions of the decree: If either spouse fails to comply with the terms of the divorce decree, it can be a factor in seeking a modification of spousal support.

8. Termination of child support: If child support obligations end, it may impact the financial circumstances of both parties and could be a basis for modifying spousal support.

9. Inability of the obligee to rehabilitate themselves: If the recipient spouse is unable to become self-supporting despite reasonable efforts, it may justify a modification of spousal support.

In summary, spousal support, or alimony, in Tennessee can be modified under certain circumstances. The criteria for modification include changes in earnings or earning capacity of either spouse, changes in needs, remarriage of either spouse, subsequent misconduct, violation of the divorce decree, termination of child support, and the inability of the recipient spouse to rehabilitate themselves. Consulting with a family law attorney is recommended to understand the specific laws and guidelines regarding the modification of spousal support in your case.

How does property get divided in a divorce?

In Tennessee, the courts have the authority to divide marital property in a divorce in an equitable manner. The determination of whether property is considered marital is based on the specific facts of the case.

When dividing marital property, the courts consider various factors, including the contributions of each party at the time of marriage, the title of the property, any gifts or inheritances received, the use of the property during the marriage, the source of funds used to acquire the property, and the method of acquisition.

The goal of equitable division is to ensure a fair distribution of property between the spouses. This does not necessarily mean an equal division, but rather a division that is deemed fair and just based on the specific circumstances of the case.

How are debts divided in a divorce?

In a divorce, the court is responsible for dividing both the marital assets and debts in an equitable manner. Marital debts include any debts incurred during the marriage, and the court will allocate responsibility for paying these debts based on certain factors.

The court may order the payment of all or a portion of the marital debt from the marital property before distributing it to the parties. The allocation of debt is determined by considering factors such as which party incurred the debt, the purpose for which the debt was incurred, which party benefited from the debt, which party is best able to assume the obligation to repay the debt, and how the assets are allocated.

Typically, the debt is allocated to the party who receives the asset for which the debt was incurred. For example, if one spouse receives a car that was purchased with a loan during the marriage, they may also be responsible for the debt associated with that car.

In cases where the marital debt is owed to a party who is related to one of the spouses, the debt is often assigned to the spouse who has the relationship with the creditor. This is done to avoid burdening the other spouse with a debt owed to their family member.

Can my student loans be divided in a divorce?

In a divorce, the division of student loans depends on when the loans were incurred. If the student loans were acquired prior to the marriage, they would generally be considered separate debt and not subject to division in a divorce. However, if the student loans were acquired during the marriage, they would be considered marital debt and subject to division.

It's important to note that if both parties in the divorce have student loans, the typical approach of the courts is to require each party to be responsible for their own student loans, regardless of whether they were acquired during the marriage or prior to the marriage.

What is child custody in Tennessee?

In Tennessee, child custody refers to the legal and physical care, control, and decision-making authority for a minor child. Prior to a judicial determination of custody, both parents have equal rights and duties regarding the custody of their child. However, this is only true for divorce cases and cases where paternity has been established. In non-divorce custody cases, fathers must establish paternity to obtain equal custodial rights.

The trial court has jurisdiction to award child custody in cases of divorce, annulment, and separate maintenance. Even if the action for divorce or annulment is dismissed, the court retains the authority to award custody and support. If a divorce, alimony, or separate maintenance is decreed without a custody order, a custody order may be made later in the case.

In a divorce case where child custody is in question, the court may award the care, custody, and control of the child to either parent, both parents, or another suitable person based on the best interests of the child. The custody order is an incident to the divorce and is authorized by statute, even if the divorce is denied. The court has the power to provide temporary orders for the protection of the children during the divorce proceedings and can issue a final custody order in the divorce decree.

The trial court has discretion in determining child custody and can award custody to either parent, both parents, or decline to make any disposition based on the best interests of the child. The court exercises continuing control over the custody of the child even after the divorce decree becomes final. If both parties are before the divorce court, the court can declare the custody of the child without regard to the domicile, solely considering the child's best interest.

What is visitation in Tennessee?

In Tennessee, visitation refers to the rights granted to a non-custodial parent to spend time with their child after a custody determination has been made. The court is generally inclined to grant visitation rights to the non-custodial parent, as it is important to maintain a parent-child relationship, unless it is determined that visitation would endanger the child's physical or emotional well-being.

When granting visitation rights, the court will specify the schedule and arrangements for visitation. This includes designating the specific days of the year when the child will reside with each parent, as well as provisions for holidays, birthdays, vacations, and other special occasions. The goal is to ensure that both parents have meaningful and regular contact with the child.

The court's primary concerns regarding visitation are determining the timing and location of visitation, ensuring the safe return of the child at the end of visitation, and ensuring that the custodial parent complies with the visitation arrangements.

What happens if the child is not returned after visitation?

If a child is not returned after visitation, it can create a challenging situation for the custodial parent. Traditionally, the fear of losing visitation rights has been enough to ensure the return of the child. However, with increased mobility and visitation across state lines, there is a risk that the noncustodial parent may refuse to return the child, requiring the custodial parent to take legal action.

In such cases, the custodial parent may need to travel to the location where the child is being held and initiate habeas corpus proceedings. Habeas corpus is a legal action that allows a person to seek the release of someone who is being unlawfully detained. In this context, it would be used to seek the return of the child.

It's important to note that in these proceedings, there is a risk of a change of custody. If the court determines that it is in the best interest of the child to remain with the noncustodial parent, custody may be modified.

Do Grandparents have visitation rights in Tennessee?

In Tennessee, grandparents may have visitation rights under certain circumstances. A grandparent can petition for visitation and will be granted a hearing in the following situations: when one parent of an unmarried minor child is deceased, when the child's parents are divorced or were never married, when a parent has been missing for at least six months, when a court in another state has ordered grandparent visitation, or when the child has resided in the grandparent's home for at least 12 months and was removed from that home by a parent.

When considering a grandparent's petition for visitation, the court will assess whether the child had a significant existing relationship with the grandparent that the loss of such relationship would likely cause severe emotional harm to the child. The court will also consider whether the cessation of the relationship could interrupt the provision for the child's needs and cause physical or emotional harm, particularly if the grandparent has been the primary caregiver. Additionally, the court will evaluate whether the loss of a significant relationship with the grandparent presents a danger of other direct and substantial harm to the child.

A significant relationship is deemed to have existed if the grandparent was the child's full-time caregiver for at least six consecutive months, if the child lived with the grandparent for at least six consecutive months, or if the grandparent had frequent visitation with the child for a period of at least one year.

It's important to note that in most cases, Tennessee courts have held that there is no power to grant grandparents visitation over parental objections in intact families unless there is a threat of substantial harm to the child.

In summary, grandparents in Tennessee may have visitation rights under certain circumstances. The court will consider the existing relationship between the grandparent and the child, the potential harm to the child if the relationship is lost, and the danger of other direct and substantial harm to the child. Consulting with a family law attorney is recommended to understand the specific laws and guidelines regarding grandparents' visitation rights in your case.

Do Stepparents have visitation rights in Tennessee?

In Tennessee, stepparents may be granted visitation rights if it is determined to be in the best interest of the child. This can occur in cases of annulment, divorce, or separate maintenance.

When determining the best interest of the child, the court may apply various presumptions, including the parental rights doctrine, the tender years doctrine, or yielding to the mature child's preference. These presumptions help guide the court in making a decision that is in the child's best interest.

The parental rights doctrine recognizes the fundamental rights of biological or adoptive parents and gives them a presumption of being the best custodial option for the child. The tender years doctrine suggests that young children may benefit from being in the care of their mother or primary caregiver. The court may also consider the preferences of a mature child when making a determination.

Ultimately, the court will consider the unique circumstances of the case and make a decision based on what is deemed to be in the best interest of the child. This may include granting visitation rights to a stepparent if it is determined to be beneficial for the child's well-being.

Do I have to pay child support?

In Tennessee, both parents have a legal obligation to provide financial support for their child. This duty can be enforced through various legal actions, including petitions in divorce, alimony, or separate maintenance cases, paternity actions, or independent actions to recover reimbursement for necessary expenses.

The determination of child support is primarily guided by the Child Support Guidelines in Tennessee. These guidelines serve as the most important factor in setting child support orders. The key criteria considered in determining child support are the financial needs of the child and the ability of the parent to provide for those needs based on their means and social standing. There is a strong presumption that child support should be calculated using the formulas provided in the Child Support Guidelines.

The Child Support Guidelines take into account various factors, including the income of both parents, the number of children involved, and other relevant expenses. The guidelines provide a framework for calculating child support amounts that are deemed fair and appropriate based on the specific circumstances of the case.

How is child support calculated in Tennessee?

In Tennessee, child support is calculated using a child support worksheet that is based on the Tennessee Child Support Guidelines. This worksheet requires the input of financial information from both parents, including their income, as well as the number of days each parent has custody of the child. Other factors such as providing health care, childcare, and having other children in the home may also be considered.

While the number of days each parent has custody of the child is a factor in the calculation, the income of the parents is the most significant factor in determining child support amounts. The guidelines provide a formula that takes into account the income of both parents and calculates a child support amount that is deemed fair and appropriate based on the specific circumstances of the case.

It's important to note that the child support guidelines are designed to ensure that the child's financial needs are met and that both parents contribute proportionally to their ability to pay. The guidelines aim to provide consistency and predictability in child support calculations.

Can I modify child support in the future?

Child support can be modified in the future if there is a significant variance from the Child Support Guidelines. Reasons for modifying child support include the parent's ability to provide, changes in the child's needs, changes in the income or needs of the custodial parent, remarriage of the parent, subsequent conduct of the custodial parent, provision of services in kind, emancipation of the child, obligations of the obligor, de facto change in child custody, and if the child is not the defendant's child.

If there is a significant change in the obligor's income, typically a 15 percent change, it can be considered a changed circumstance that may warrant a modification of child support. Changes in the child's needs or the income or needs of the custodial parent can also be grounds for modification.

If the custodial parent has violated visitation provisions or taught the child hatred towards the other parent, the court may refuse to modify child support. If the noncustodial parent has provided services in kind that fulfill the intention of the support order, they may be relieved of past due support obligations. Emancipation of the child, typically through marriage or reaching the age of 18, can terminate the support obligation.

However, a parent may still be required to provide support for a disabled adult child. If the obligations of the obligor have substantially increased, resulting in hardship, it may be considered in reducing support. A de facto change in child custody, where the child moves from one parent's home to the other without a court-ordered change, can also be a basis for modifying support. Additionally, if it is determined that the child is not the defendant's child, it may impact the child support obligation.

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