An Uncontested, Stress-Free Divorce in Tennessee

Tennessee law allows a process for divorce that significantly reduces the emotional burden and the expense of protracted litigation. You do not have to have an attorney to file for divorce. However, proceed with caution if you are filing without legal representation. Make sure you do not agree to something you will later regret.

Here is a quick overview of the process of an uncontested divorce.

Who Qualifies for Uncontested Divorce?

Not everyone qualifies for Tennessee’s streamlined uncontested divorce procedure. Both you and your husband or wife must meet the following requirements:

  • You both lived in the state for the last six months
  • You have no minor children born of the marriage
  • Both of you agree to dissolve your marriage
  • You own no business or real estate together and have no retirement accounts
  • You have reached a full personal property settlement agreement

If any single one of the above requirements is not met, you do not qualify for Tennessee’s uncontested divorce procedure. If you do not qualify but still want an affordable, painless divorce, we have 3 divorce services designed specifically for you.

If you and your spouse meet all of the listed requirements, you can begin the filing process. Before you do, be sure to read How To Get An Agreed Divorce In Tennessee. This form was put together by the state to educate people the procedure.

Starting the Process

The divorce case is filed in the county that you live in. If you have already separated, and you live in separate counties, you can bring the action in either county. The following completed forms must be filed to begin the divorce process:

  • The divorce petition
  • Spousal personal information form
  • Personal property settlement agreement
  • Health insurance notice
  • Divorce hearing notice

Some counties might require additional paperwork pursuant to local rules. Be sure to check with your county’s court clerk to be sure of exactly what forms are needed. You can either print all necessary forms off of the internet, or you can go to your local court clerk’s offices to pick up an uncontested divorce form package. Any additional forms that might be required in your county will likely be in that package.

How Long Does It Take?

There will be a minimum of 60 days between date of filing and date of hearing. The court clerk in your county will schedule you for the first available date. He or she wants your divorce finalized too.

Do I Have To Go To The Divorce Hearing?

The presiding judge might have questions for both of you, so both parties should be present at the divorce hearing. If your paperwork is in order on your hearing date, you could be divorced that day. On the other hand, you might leave the hearing still married. The divorce does not become final until the judge signs off on your decree.

7 Ways to Save Money During a Divorce

Getting a divorce is expensive. I’m sure you have heard horror stories. We all have. As a divorce lawyer, I can tell you that unfortunately, those stories come true more often than you’d like to think. However, there is good news: you can follow a few simple steps to save money during a divorce.

Manage Spending During Divorce Process

Reduce Attorney Fees

Yes, getting a divorce costs money – there is no way around that – but you do not have to spend an arm and a leg on lawyer fees. It might seem crazy for me, a divorce attorney, to encourage you to spend less with your lawyer, but that’s exactly why I offer affordable, set pricing for 3 of the most common kinds of divorce.

If you are paying by the hour, reduce costs by preparing yourself before consulting with your lawyer. Just having your documents and questions in order will put you ahead of the curve.

Do Not Indulge in Emotional Shopping

Times of high stress and high emotion often lead people to binge shop. Some people are encouraged to spend all they can during the divorce, especially if they have access to joint bank accounts or credit cards. The reality is that spending sprees will leave you with less at the end and may come back to bite you when assets are being divvied up.

Fight for Your Assets (And Recognize That No One Wins)

Forget About Emotional Entitlement

Along with emotional spending, another strong emotional reaction during a divorce is emotional entitlement. Be careful not to give up too much when fighting for one prized possession. You can always buy new things.

You will both walk away feeling like you’ve lost something important

The reality of divorce is that it comes down to compromise, and you will both feel like you have lost something. You may want to fight for the iTunes collection that you painstakingly curated over the years, but if the collection is worth $400 and it costs you $1,000 in legal fees and compromises to fight for it, then it is time to walk away.

Do Not Leave Anything on the Table

While you need to know when to walk away from a costly fight over a possession, you also need to fight for your entire half. Assets and debts are equally shared in marriage. Sometimes one party will feel obligated to take less than their share during the divorce out of sympathy or guilt. While it might seem like the charitable thing to do in the short-term, in the long run, leaving money on the table often seems foolish.

Plan for Post-Divorce Costs

Assets with High Maintenance

If you got the house in the divorce, you may have won the biggest battle. However, maintaining a house comes with its own costs. As you consider your post-divorce life, do not forget to account for things like real estate taxes, insurance, and general home repair and maintenance. It adds up quickly.

Plan for Taxes

Consult an accountant or financial advisor if you have one about the tax implications of your divorce. You do not want to get hit with an unexpected, large bill from the IRS.

Going through a divorce is difficult enough without overspending on the process. Keep these tips in mind to help stay on track and on budget. If you need professional advice, contact my office to setup an initial consultation.

Post-Divorce Checklist

Going through a divorce can be a difficult process. Once the process is complete and the divorce is final, you can finally breath a sigh of relief. However, there are still some more steps that you must take in order to follow the provisions of the divorce. These steps will also help to secure the legal and financial aspects of your life as a single person.

Checklist Criteria

The following is a helpful checklist of the steps that remain after a divorce. While every step may not necessarily apply to you, there may be some of these items that are of the utmost importance to get done immediately.

  • Divide any property as your divorce papers state.
  • Remove your ex-spouse’s name from the mortgage title or lease if necessary.
  • Have a quitclaim deed executed that will transfer the title of property to your spouse as directed by the divorce papers. Your ex-spouse will need to do the same as directed.
  • Be sure that your name has been removed from debts or loans that you are no longer responsible for.
  • Update your auto insurance policy to reflect new drivers or address changes.
  • Update the title for any vehicles that you have retained ownership of after the divorce.
  • If your name has changed after your divorce, notify any creditors that you may have.
  • Visit the Social Security Administration to update your name change.
  • Update your driver’s license to reflect your name change.
  • Change your address on your driver’s license if you have moved.
  • Notify all creditors that your address has changed if you have moved from the marital home.
  • Update your bank information with your new name and address.
  • Remove your ex-spouse’s name from any bank information.
  • Remove your ex-spouse from your credit cards or apply for credit in your name only.
  • Update the beneficiary on your life insurance policy if you are able to by your divorce decree.
  • Keep any employer informed of information they may need to know about your divorce such as court-ordered support.
  • Pay any alimony or child support on time.
  • Write a new will.

While it may take some time to adjust to your new life, the above steps can help you through that process. If you have any questions, it is important to contact a professional divorce attorney to schedule a consultation.

How Domestic Violence Impacts Child Custody in Tennessee

Domestic violence is a very serious issue that causes lifelong trauma for victims. The state of Tennessee, like other states, considers domestic violence when making child custody and visitation rulings. Tennessee places the best interests of the child as the top priority when reviewing child custody, which means that domestic violence offenders can have their parental rights limited, or even terminated in extreme cases of abuse.

Getting Help

The most important thing to keep in mind with domestic violence is your safety and that of your child(ren). Tennessee has domestic violence advocates and support contacts setup throughout the state. Find your county’s information. You can also seek help through an advocacy group, the Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence. 24-hour assistance is available by calling the Tennessee Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-356-6767.

Domestic Violence Crosses Gender Lines

If a person has a legally reliable history of domestic violence, it can impact future court orders on child custody and visitation. A history of domestic violence can be gender neutral. There are bad people out there of both sexes, and when domestic violence occurs in the presence of children, the likelihood of it occurring during their parenting years only increases.

Order of Protection

An order of protection prohibits an abuser from engaging in violence against you or your child for up to one year. If you have a current Protection From Abuse Order (PFA) from a court against your abuser, or if your abuser has been convicted of a felony or domestic violence misdemeanor, then Federal law states that it is illegal for your abuser to buy or have a gun in their possession.

You MUST ASK THE JUDGE to specifically write in your order that the abuser cannot buy or have a gun while the order is in effect and to require that your abuser to give any guns to the police, or require the police to go to the abuser’s house and get them. The guns then go to either the county sheriff or court clerk of stolen property. The district attorney in the county where the gun(s) was taken away can then file to have them destroyed.

Custody and Visitation

Tennessee law prohibits any ruling that would put the child at substantial risk of harm. The court will consider the severity and proximity of abuse, with more limitations placed on more recent, more harmful, and more frequent abusers.

The judge will want both parents to have as much involvement in the child’s life as possible, while protecting the child. As such, visitation with a parent found to commit child abuse may only be awarded if:

  • Supervised by a responsible adult or agency
  • The abuser completes a counseling program before visitation begins
  • Overnight visits are prohibited until a demonstrated change guarantees the safety of the child
  • The address of the child and non-abusive parent is confidential
  • Any other conditions the court thinks are necessary

The court cannot place a child in the custody of a parent who presents substantial risk of harm to the child. In cases of severe abuse, parental rights may be terminated altogether. In these cases, the decision is a permanent order.

If you have additional questions or find yourself in a legal case with domestic violence, contact me immediately to discuss your legal rights and protections.

Does An Affair Cost More In Divorce In Tennessee?

Affairs can destroy a marriage, and when it comes to divorce, they can really complicate the matter. In the state of Tennessee, adultery can be grounds for a divorce in and of itself. If you and/or your spouse are considering a divorce and an affair is a contributing factor, it’s imperative to understand how adultery can affect and impact the process.

Divorce on the Grounds of Infidelity

As previously mentioned, Tennessee recognizes adultery as a sole grounds for divorce, meaning that a judge can officially end a marriage if a spouse is able to prove that adultery took place. It’s important to know, however, that allegations are not enough; one must definitively prove that the affair occurred.

Division of Property

In most cases, even if an affair is proven, it will not affect the division of the property. Tennessee is a state that follows the rules of equitable distribution, which means that all marital assets are divided fairly. The judge will consider the needs of each spouse and the contributions he or she made to the marriage. Depending on the state, however, usually one cannot factor adultery into the division of property.

The one exception is if it is proven that one spouse used joint funds in order to support the adultery. In cases like these, the court may subtract this amount from the portion allotted to the partner in question.

Alimony

While property division is typically not impacted by adultery, the same cannot be said for alimony, or spousal support. The purpose of alimony is to ensure that the spouses are able to maintain their lifestyle after the divorce is finalized. Like property division, the court will consider the needs of the spouses and their ability to hold a job and earn their living.

While alimony is never used as a means to punish a spouse, it is possible that, in cases where it is determined that the offended spouse was so devastated as to make working harder or impossible, the judge may choose to increase the required alimony.

Defense After Adultery

While an affair can complicate the divorce process, it is not necessarily true that adultery will automatically lead the judge to dissolve the marriage. There are three possible defenses that a Tennessee resident can use in order to mitigate the damages following adultery. This includes:

  • Recrimination: in cases where both spouses had an affair, neither can use this as grounds for divorce.
  • Connivance: adultery cannot be used as grounds for divorce if the “wronged” spouse took part in encouraging the affair.
  • Condonation: reconciliation in which the wronged spouse forgives and reconciles with the unfaithful partner; if the wronged spouse claims adultery later on, the court can dismiss it.

Key Legal Mistakes People Make During Divorce

Divorce is a very stressful time for all the parties involved. Emotions are running high for both parties, and in many cases the need for revenge is prevalent. Sadly, many legal mistakes are made because decisions are being made with emotion instead of logic. In an effort to help you get through your divorce with ease, we recommend you avoid making the following mistakes:

Type Of Divorce Proceeding

Are you using the right type of divorce proceeding for your case? Talk over your options with your attorney. You can use mediation or other forms of negotiation to settle your divorce, and this could save you a lot of time, money, and heartache.

Divorce Attorney

Have you chosen the right attorney for the job? It is important that you select an attorney that can handle your type of case. For instance, if you know that your ex-spouse is going to be aggressive, you will want to have an attorney who is equally passionate about being on your side. Additionally, going through a divorce is not the time to use a friend of the family that is a corporate lawyer. While they have the authority to do this, they may not have the experience and knowledge of current divorce proceedings to accurately represent your case.

Financial Standing

It is important that you are fully aware of your financial standings both as an individual and as a couple. Make sure you know all of your debts and assets and are aware of what income and assets your spouse separate from yours (regardless of when they were acquired). Be sure you understand any debt held jointly in your names — not knowing where you stand, and where you stood financially as a couple, could cause you problems for many years after the divorce.

Social Media

Social media is not private or protected. If you are going through a divorce, avoid posting on social media. If you must post something, do not post anything about your divorce, your current separation, your spouse, your finances, or your plans for the future. Do not post anything that could make you look bad or be used against you.

Remember: everything you say can potentially be used against you.

If you are going through a divorce, correcting any of these mistakes will help you through the entire process, but the first line of defense is always a great attorney. Make sure you seek professional assistance so you have a strong advocate on your side.

What To Know About Changing & Challenging Child Custody

Specific laws and procedures govern child custody issues. When parents agree to modify an existing custody order, the process is fairly simple. Greater difficulty arises, however, when parents do not agree to proposed changes.

In all custody cases, the overlying concern is the best interest of the child. To have your request granted by the court, you must be able to demonstrate that the order you seek or the modifications you request will benefit the child and serve his/her best interests.

Timing

Depending on the state where the custody order originates, there may be a minimum period of time that must pass before a modification can be pursued. Even if your state does not have a specific waiting period, courts are often wary of requests to modify in cases where an order has been in effect for only a short amount of time.

Reason For Change

If your situation does meet the requirements for modification, you will need a good reason to justify the requested changes. In order for any modification request to be considered by the court, the change must meet the standard of a material change in circumstances and this standard must be shown.

The material change in circumstances standard allows consideration of a broad array of evidence. Examples of evidence that may be meet this standard would include a long-distance move, change in living conditions, issues with the child’s development, and many other situations.

Requested Change & Custody Order

If a material change in circumstances has been shown to the court, the parent requesting modification must also show that the requested change is in the best interest of the child and requires presentation of evidence to support that claim. Family law attorneys will be familiar with the types of evidence that can be used to demonstrate the best interest standard.

Receiving a custody order or modification of a custody order requires compliance with specific rules and procedures. Typically it includes filing papers that contain specific information and adhere to formatting rules. Compliance with these procedures and rules can be overwhelming for those who are unfamiliar with the process.

An experienced family law attorney will be able to advise you about the time restraints on custody modifications. Be sure to consult with an attorney and seek out representation to assist you with throughout process in order to achieve a successful change request.

How to Talk to Small Children About Divorce

When two people decide to get a divorce, they often think about the impact the process will have on their small children. After all, divorce drastically alters the daily routines of any family. If you are going through a divorce, you may be trying to find ways to carefully share this information with your small children. It is understandable that you want to present the information in a manner that leaves your children feeling secure and loved.

There are many effective ways for you to help your children adjust to your divorce. Here is a guideline that will help you talk to your small children about divorce.

Toddlers

During this stage, young children develop meaning about the world around them. They learn to count on the consistency of familiar routines. Divorce changes these routines. As a result, toddlers may become insecure. It is essential that you maintain a sense of structure for your toddler children. Discuss their feelings about the separation. Reassure your children that they did not cause the separation.

Preschool Children

As children progress through this stage, they feel as if they have a sense of control over their environment. This control provides them with security and confidence. Divorce challenges this level of certainty. Children will resist the separation at all costs. As you prepare your preschool age children for your divorce, provide an environment in which it is safe to share their feelings. Children in this age group need as much support and structure as toddlers.

School Age Children

In this age group, children will have strong feelings about divorce. They may unite with one parent, and blame another. Another thing they will do is exhibit behavior problems because they are angry. It is important for you to patiently guide your children through any anger or abandonment issues that may be a consequence of your divorce. Let your children know that you or your spouse will not abandon them. Provide them with ample opportunities to discuss their feelings without being judged or criticized.

In the beginning of the process, your children will have to overcome negative feelings and sadness. By providing your children with the proper tools to handle your divorce, you can help them successfully adjust to their new way of life.

Marriage Annulments vs. Divorce

While annulments and divorces have the same result: dissolution of marriage; they are quite different. The main difference lies in how they treat the marriage itself. Much like a divorce, an annulment dissolves a marriage. However, an annulment serves (legally) as a declaration that the marriage did not happen, while a divorce is the ending of a validated marriage – with both parties returning to a single status.

Annulments

Annulments can provide relief for couples who feel that they should not have gotten married in the first place. A civil annulment treats the marriage as though it didn’t exist. Certain requirements are required to grant a civil annulment, such as:

  • Concealment: This occurs if one or both people hid important, material information, such as the fact that they had children or a felony conviction.
  • Fraud or Misrepresentation: This occurs if one or both spouses lie about something extremely important, such as the ability to have children, knowing that they cannot have children or that they are not married to somebody else.
  • Impotency: This occurs if one person is impotent and is not curable and if the other spouse didn’t know about this before getting married.
  • Incest: This occurs if the two people in the marriage have close familial relations.
  • Lack of Consent: This occurs if at least one of the parties does not have the mental capacity or ability to consent (think of minors), like if they were intoxicated at the time of marriage, or if they were forced into marriage (think shotgun wedding).
  • Misunderstanding: This occurs if there’s a misunderstanding regarding a desire to have kids.

Religious Annulment

The requirements for a religious annulment are different than those of a civil annulment. For Catholic couples, the church will grant an annulment based on factors regarding honesty, maturity, consent, motivation, capacity to be in a marriage, and emotional stability. If the diocesan tribunal grants the annulment, then both parties will be allowed to remarry in the Catholic Church.

Divorce

A divorce, on the other hand, is a legal action that’s taken between two people who are married in order to terminate the marriage. This is also called “dissolution of marriage.” No-fault laws make it possible for either party to file for a divorce with or without a “good” reason under an “irreconcilable differences” claim.

Both annulments and divorce are taxing on the couples seeking to end their partnership. It is important to seek the counsel of a professional divorce attorney, when determining the best route for an annulment or divorce.

Understanding the Basics: Divorce vs. Separation

There is a great deal of murkiness surrounding the legal implications and general understanding of what it means to be divorced versus what it means to be separated. When you couple difficult definitions with confusing legal terms, the whole situation can fast become overwhelming. Here are some definitions and basic explanations to better understand divorce vs. separation:

Divorce

Divorce is when two spouses legally are no longer married. In the eyes of the state, the marriage has ended. This differs from what is called a legal separation, where, in the eyes of the state, the two spouses are still legally married.

Separation

A legal separation may be a good idea if couples find themselves trying to work through a personal or financial issue that is impacting the marriage.

Different Styles of Separation

  • Trial Separation: This is for couples that want to test out living separately without legal implications. This is still viewed as a period of time within the marriage, and any property or debt is shared — including any newly acquired property or debt. It is not until the couple decides to legally end the marriage that this will change. Even if the marriage ultimately ends in divorce, until that time, property is viewed as shared.
  • Living Separately: Depending on what state the couple lives in, living separately can have different legal implications. For some states, living separately does not have any consequence on property division until one of the spouses gains the intent to end the marriage. All property and debt acquired from that point on is considered separate. Some states consider property and debt separate if the couple is living apart, no matter what the intent is of the couple, while other states consider property shared until a divorce complaint is officially filed with the state. If a couple is considering living in separate residences, it is a good idea to check with the state to see which ruling on the division of property is applicable.
  • Permanent Separation: A permanent separation is exactly what it sounds like; a separation for good. Most states view all property and debt acquired while permanently separated as separate property. If property is acquired while separated that is necessary for the family, then it is shared. Property and debt of this nature may include house payments, maintenance of the home, or childcare related expenses.

There are many nuances to understanding the complexities of choosing separation vs. divorce. When considering which path is best for you, it is important to contact a family law attorney and review your options.