We hope you never need a divorce. But just in case you have questions about what a divorce in Tennessee involves, we’ve invited Guest Blogger and Family Law Attorney Lucie Brackin to fill you in. Lucie is a partner with The Landers Firm PLC. Here’s what Lucie has to say about getting a divorce in Tennessee:
Filing a Divorce Case
The first step is to file a Complaint for Divorce and pay the filing fee to the Court Clerk’s office.
How Long Does it Take to Get Divorced?
If you have minor children, there’s a 90 day waiting period before the Court can grant a divorce. If you don’t have minor children, the waiting period is 60 days.
Discovery in a Divorce Case
The first formal phase of a divorce is called “discovery” because that’s what the lawyers are doing – discovering everything they need to know about the parties, the finances, the children, etc. This usually involves answering a list of questions under oath, producing documents to the other side, and depositions.
Child Custody in Tennessee
In Tennessee, the Court will not use the word “custody” in your case. The terms now used under Tennessee law are Primary Residential Parent and Alternate Residential Parent. However, these titles don’t hold the significance you might think. Regardless of who holds these titles, each parent’s specific rights to make major decisions regarding the children’s education, health, religion, and extra-curricular activities will have to be determined and specifically stated in the Permanent Parenting Plan that must be either agreed upon or ordered by the Court.
Parenting Time (or Visitation)
Courts in Tennessee do not use the term “visitation.”’ The legal term in Tennessee is “parenting time.”’ The Permanent Parenting Plan form outlines the day-to-day and holiday schedules. This must all be completed before a Court will approve a Permanent Parenting Plan.
Child Support in Tennessee
If minor children are involved, there must be a Child Support Worksheet attached to the Permanent Parenting Plan.
In order to calculate child support, you must include:
- number of days per year each parent has the children (which is basically the number of overnights the children spend with each parent per year),
- each parent’s gross monthly income,
- cost that each parent pays for the children’s insurance,
- cost of work-related child-care.
After the “guideline support” is determined by the worksheet, there may be deviations (upward or downward) that may be allowable, such as recurring medical expenses, extra-curricular activities, or special lessons.
“Minor children” are defined as children who have not yet turned 18 years of age and graduated from high school. So, child support sometimes has to be paid after a child has turned 18 but has not yet graduated or after a child has graduated but has not yet turned 18.
College Expenses as Child Support
Courts in Tennessee cannot order parents to pay college expenses, although parents can enter into a contractual agreement to pay college expenses for their children. It is very important to talk to a lawyer before you enter into a contract to pay college expenses for your children.
Division of Assets and Liabilities in a Divorce
The first determination that the Court will make is whether the asset or debt in question is “marital” or “separate.” Generally, separate assets are those that one of you had before the marriage, that you inherited, or that was given to you as a gift, and which you continued to hold separately. With the exception of some kinds of retirement funds, increases in value to those separate items will also be separate unless marital efforts have been used to cause the increase in value. Separate assets are typically retained by their original owner and the other spouse cannot make a claim to those items. There are, of course, special exceptions that apply to special circumstances. Marital assets are nearly everything else, including things like closely held businesses or professional practices.
The division of marital assets occurs without considering the fault of a party (“grounds for divorce”), and the guiding principal of division is that the Court is to achieve “equity” with the division, but “equity” does not necessarily mean “equal.”
Alimony (or Spousal Support)
There is no formula to calculate alimony in Tennessee. To calculate alimony, the Court considers many factors, the most important of which are “need” and “ability to pay.” While there are no hard and fast rules, you can typically assume that the longer the length of the marriage and the greater the disparity in the parties’ earning capacities, the greater and longer the alimony award. Conversely, the shorter the marriage and the closer the parties’ earning capacities are, the less likely it is that there will be a significant alimony award or any at all.
The types of alimony available in Tennessee are as follows and they are applied based upon which type best fits the facts, circumstances, and needs in your case:
- In Futuro Alimony: This is typically “lifetime” alimony and is reserved for very unusual cases or long-term marriages where one spouse will never be able to fully support himself or herself. It is typically taxable to the recipient, deductible by the payor, and modifiable by both parties under the right circumstances.
- Rehabilitative Alimony: This is typically used in circumstances where one spouse needs support to allow him or her to get to a financial place where support is no longer needed – perhaps to complete an education or to allow a minor child to begin school. It is typically taxable to the recipient, deductible by the payor, and modifiable by both parties under the right circumstances.
- In Solido Alimony: This type of alimony is also known as “lump sum alimony” and it is typically used to balance out an unequal division of property or to ensure the transfer of a certain sum of money to a spouse without creating tax consequences and without allowing modifiability.
- Transitional Alimony: This form of alimony is typically used in circumstances that don’t fit other types of alimony and “rehabilitation” is either not possible or not needed. It is typically of short duration, and it may be taxable or non-taxable, and it may also be modifiable or non-modifiable, depending on what is trying to be achieved.
Resolution of a Divorce Case in Tennessee
Most divorce cases will be settled through mediation, which the Courts often order if the parties do not voluntarily attend. If you are unable to resolve your case, your divorce will be set for trial.
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