Do I need a divorce lawyer?

Divorces can be complicated. In order to ensure that your rights are protected during the process, we recommend that you consult with an attorney who has your best interest at heart.

What is the divorce process in Tennessee?

After a couple files for an uncontested divorce, they must draft and sign a marital dissolution agreement. If the couple has minor children, they must also prepare a permanent parenting plan that outlines arrangements for the care and custody of their children. The couple must then attend a court hearing to determine whether their agreement complies with Tennessee law. If the judge accepts the agreement, he or she will issue a final divorce decree.

After a party files for a contested divorce with the court, he or she must then notify the other spouse of the filing. Once the spouse answers the divorce petition, both parties begin the fact-finding portion of the process. The trial then commences. At the conclusion of the trial, the court issues a final decree that grants or denies the divorce.

How long do I have to live in Tennessee before I can get a divorce here?

In general, you have to be domiciled in Tennessee at least six months before you can file for divorce. If you are the victim of abuse or there is some other emergency, you may be able to file immediately.

What are the grounds for divorce in Tennessee?

Tennessee law allows divorce on either fault or no-fault grounds. The no-fault grounds for divorce are:

  • Irreconcilable differences, and
  • Living in separate residences, and not cohabiting as spouses, for at least two years (this ground only applies if the couple has no children)

The fault grounds for divorce are:

  • either spouse, at the time of the marriage, was and still is naturally impotent and incapable of procreation
  • either party has knowingly entered into a second marriage, in violation of a previous marriage that has not ended
  • either spouse has committed adultery
  • either spouse has willfully or maliciously deserted or left the other, without a reasonable cause, for one year
  • either spouse has been convicted of a crime which, by the laws of the state, renders the party infamous
  • either spouse has committed a felony and been sentenced to confinement in the penitentiary
  • either spouse has attempted to take the life of the other, by poison or any other means showing malice
  • either spouse has refused to remove with that person’s spouse to this state, without a reasonable cause, and has been willfully absent from the spouse residing in Tennessee for two years
  • the wife was pregnant at the time of the marriage, by another person, without the knowledge of the husband
  • habitual drunkenness or abuse of narcotic drugs by either spouse, when the spouse has contracted such habit after marriage
  • either spouse is guilty of such cruel and inhuman treatment or conduct towards the spouse as renders cohabitation unsafe and improper, which may also be referred to in pleadings as inappropriate marital conduct
  • either spouse has offered such indignities to the other spouse’s person as to render the other spouse’s condition intolerable, and thereby forced the other spouse to withdraw, or
  • either spouse has abandoned the other, or turned the other out of doors, and refused or neglected to provide for the other while having the ability to do so.

How long does the divorce process take?

A mutual-consent, no-fault divorce takes about two to six months. There is a mandatory 60 day “cooling off” period after the complaint is filed if there are no children involved. If the couple has children, it takes a minimum of 90 days. A contested divorce can last years, with the average cast lasting a year or more. Finally, if the spouses agree to divide a pension, it might take an additional 60 to 180 days after the divorce is granted to complete the division.

What are the factors the court considers when determining a child custody arrangement?

When deciding a custody case, the court will determine which arrangement is in the best interest of the child. Tennessee law forbids a court from considering the gender of the parent in making a decision, but joint custody is typically favored over sole or individual custody.

Some factors that the court will consider when making a custody decision include:

  • A parent’s ability to encourage and instruct the child
  • The quality of the child’s relationship with each parent
  • The ability of each parent to provide the child with his or her basic needs
  • The existing emotional ties between the child and each parent
  • Evidence of child or spousal abuse
  • The preference of the child (if older than 12 years of age)
  • The effect of continuity in the child’s life
  • The needs and development of the child
  • The roles each parent has played as caregiver

What are the rights of the primary custodial parent in Tennessee?

Both the primary residential parent and the alternative residential parent have authority to make decisions on the day-to-day care and control of the child while the child resides with that parent. A Tennessee parenting plan allocates final decision-making authority between the parents on topics such as education, health care, extracurricular activities and religious upbringing. The final decision-making authority may also be shared jointly.

Understand that a parent’s authority is never absolute. When one parent disagrees with the other parent who has final authority, he or she can initiate mediation to address whether the other parent’s decision is in the best interests of the child.

What is a parenting plan?

In Tennessee, a permanent parenting plan is a detailed outline for parenting in the best interests of the child. The plan is completed on a special form issued by the Supreme Court of Tennessee. Parenting plans allocate responsibilities between parents, including final decision-making authority, parenting time and transportation. Parenting plans also establish where the children will live, and allocate child support by attaching child support worksheets.

The residential schedule outlines when the child will be in each parent’s physical care and designates the primary residential parent. The schedule also includes where the child will spend holidays, birthdays, vacations and other special occasions.

Tennessee parents seeking divorce are required to attend a four-hour parenting class and enter a parenting plan with the court to qualify for a divorce. If the parents cannot agree on a plan, they must go to mediation and make a good faith effort to agree on a parenting plan before the court will hear their divorce case.

How much child support will I receive?

The courts use a complex equation to determine the amount of child support to be paid in any given arrangement. The equation takes into account each spouse’s income, the number of children, childcare expenses, residence and any special needs the child may have. In most cases, child support payments continue through the child’s 18th birthday. The experienced attorneys at Murfreesboro Family Law will work to ensure an arrangement that best fits your needs and the needs of your child.

What are my options if child support is not paid on time or in full?

Try to learn why the support is not being paid. If a solution can be reached through communication between the two parents, this is the best option. However, if the child support continues to be late, you may need to hire an experienced Tennessee family law attorney and file a petition for contempt and collection.