For most law firms, the phrase Family Law refers to divorce, custody, support and adoptions. While our firm handles all those matters, we consider ourselves family advocates and make every effort to resolve issues in favor of maintaining the marriage and family unit, whenever such can be done without prejudicing the interests of our client, their well being, their physical safety and emotional and financial well-being.
Before accepting any action for divorce, we assure that other options have been considered. We frequently make referrals to family counselors. We would rather lose a perspective client than to encourage a divorce when the marriage can be saved.
Sadly, when one party files a divorce, the other spouse, like it or not, must retain effective counsel to protect their interest and the interests of their children. In addition, there are numerous examples of instances where a marriage can no longer be maintained without being a threat to the physical, emotional and economic well-being of the other partner and children.
Family law to us is a very personal matter that requires not only legal skill and experience, but care and concern for our clients.
Sadly, most people don’t improve their situation through divorce, but merely trade one set of problems for another. If your marriage is in trouble, first consider alternatives such as obtaining the help of a professional counselor, a minister or chaplain. The following is intended to provide general information on the issues of divorce and custody in Tennessee:
JURISDICTION AND VENUE
In order to file a divorce in Tennessee, you must be a Tennessee resident, or Tennessee must be the residence of the Defendant spouse. Jurisdiction usually lies in the state where the parties live, where the grounds occurred, where the children reside and where the property is located. Venue generally means that the divorce must be filed in the county where the parties resided at the time of the separation or where the defendant spouse resides, unless the parties agree otherwise.
DIVISION OF PROPERTY
Division of property is based primarily on the contribution of parties in acquiring and maintaining the property. Courts usually divide marital property (which is the property acquired during the marriage by either party with either party’s income, and either jointly or individually held), equally. Excluded from division are items brought into the marriage, acquired by gift, and received through inheritance and maintained separately.
COST OF DIVORCE
When the parties have an agreement at the time they retain an attorney, the costs are significantly less expensive. As for contested divorces, the firm of RASSAS, NORTH & ASSOCIATES considers many factors, including the complexity of the case, the time constraints, the results, the bad will generated towards the firm by the opposing party, and the actual time expended. There is usually a minimum retainer required at the time the attorney is hired.
FAULT BASED DIVORCES
If the parties cannot reach an agreement on all issues, the action must be filed on grounds of wrongdoing. There are many grounds but the most inclusive and commonly used fault based grounds is “inappropriate marital conduct.”
“NO FAULT” DIVORCES
Tennessee permits a divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences if the parties can reach a written agreement on all issues, including custody, support, and division of property. If there is not a complete agreement then a divorce can not be granted on a “no fault” basis. “No fault” divorces require a sixty-day waiting period if there are no children and a ninety-day waiting period if there are minor children.
Child Custody & Support
Since 2001, Tennessee no longer uses the term “custody”, but rather the term “shared parenting”, with one parent being the primary residential parent (PRP). From a practical standpoint, there is little difference from being designated as PRP or being designated as custodian. Tennessee requires that the parties agree on or the Court determine a formal PARENTING PLAN, which sets out details of visitation, decision making, future dispute resolution, support, and general care of the child (See links on this cite to download a copy of the Plan). Tennessee has also adopted standard child support guidelines, which base payments on the parties’ incomes, days with the child, and expenses, such as healthcare and daycare.
The specifics of the PARENTING PLAN are intended to be based on the best interest of the child. One of the strongest factors is who has been the primary care provider in the past. Generally, the Court will try to give significant time to both parents. There are multiple Judges in our jurisdiction who hear matters related to children, and they all have their own preferences. Some Judges presume that the child’s time should be divided equally between the parents, while other Judges believe that this is not in the child’s best interest. Our firm can provide insight on these and other issues pertaining to children.