Efficient and Compassionate Marriage Dissolution
Marriage dissolution matters almost inevitably involve both financial and emotional issues. Unless the spouses had a solid premarital agreement, these issues can be quite complex, even if the spouses agree on most questions.
Financially, the divorce must equitably divide all marital property, including both debts and assets. Equitable does not always mean the same thing as equal. In fact, Tennessee law requires that the divorce not be an unfair financial burden on either party. Sometimes, this provision dictates a disproportionate division. DSOs (Domestic Support Obligations), like child and spousal support, must be determined in a similar fashion
Emotionally, a divorce order must include a parenting time division. Old labels like “custodial parent” and “noncustodial parent” have fallen by the wayside. Today’s Tennessee family laws expect both parents to be active child-rearing participants, at least in most cases. As a result, traditional boundaries and timesharing arrangements are inappropriate in many situations.
At Stratton Family Law, we approach these different issues differently. As for financial issues, we efficiently look for cost-effective solutions that uphold your legal and financial rights. When it comes to emotional issues, our compassion moves to the forefront. We understand what your family is going through, and we are committed to finding a stable solution that benefits everyone.
Divorce Basics in Tennessee
The vast majority of marriage dissolutions in Williamson County are no-fault divorces. Irreconcilable differences between the spouses have made it impossible to live together. These differences could be the cumulative effects of smaller disputes or due to trauma in the marriage, such as adultery or abandonment.
One spouse’s testimony as to these differences is usually sufficient. There is no need to go into detail. A simple recital is enough.
As for some nuts and bolts, Tennessee has a six month pre-filing residency requirement and a 90-day post-filing waiting period for no-fault divorces (60 days if the marriage did not include children).
Fault divorces have the residency requirement but no waiting period. Some people want or need an evidence-based divorce for personal, religious, or other reasons. In some cases, fault in the breakup of the marriage could also be relevant in the property settlement.
These matters are rather complex, mostly because, unlike a no-fault divorce, some defenses are available. For example, assume Ned was unfaithful to Maude. When she discovered Ned’s infidelity, Maude forgave him and agreed to continue the marriage relationship. If she is unfaithful to Ned, he cannot use that infidelity as a basis for divorce.
On a related note, legal separation is also available in Tennessee. The judge makes property division, child support, and other orders, but does not legally dissolve the marriage. Like an evidence-based divorce, many people choose this alternative for religious or personal reasons.
Alimony laws, like divorce laws, vary significantly in different states. Tennessee has rather subjective laws which give judges a great deal of discretion in this area.
Several types of alimony are available, largely based on the obligee’s economic needs and the facts of the case. Temporary alimony gives obligees money to pay divorce-related expenses, such as attorneys’ fees and living costs. If the obligee needs to complete a college degree or take other steps to become self-sufficient, the judge usually orders rehabilitative alimony. Long-term alimony, which is usually capped at the length of the marriage, equalizes the standard of living between the former spouses.
As for the specific amount and duration of payments, some legal factors include:
- Agreements between the parties,
- Obligor’s documented ability to pay,
- Length of the marriage,
- Relative earning power of each spouse,
- Noneconomic contributions to the marriage,
- Custody of minor children, and
- Obligee’s economic need.
Agreements between the parties and the economic circumstances of each party are usually the most important factors. Generally, judges approve most settlement agreements, as long as they are not blatantly one-sided. As for economic circumstances, there is a difference between the obligee’s economic need and economic wants. There’s also a difference between the obligor’s ability to pay and willingness to pay.
Roughly these same factors are relevant in the property division portion of a Franklin divorce. But the application is different. The custody of minor children is a good example. Typically. It’s in the childrens’ best interests for them to remain in the family home. So, rather than sell the house and divide the proceeds, the residential parent often obtains title to the home.
Depending on the amount of equity involved, a setoff and/or a lien could protect the other spouse’s financial interests. For example, Maude might accept lower spousal support payments or a lesser share of Ned’s retirement account in exchange for outright title. Or, Ned might receive a lien for his share of the equity. Later, when Maude sells the house, that lien must be paid.
Lengthy marriages often feature property commingling problems. Marital and nonmarital property mixes together.
Assume Ned owned a rent house prior to the marriage. The house is clearly his nonmarital property. Maude used a wedding gift from her parents (her nonmarital property) to fix up the house.
Depending on the facts, mostly the size and usage of the gift, at the time of divorce, the rent house might be Ned’s nonmarital property, Maude’s nonmarital property, or marital property that’s subject to equitable division. The same is true of future rental income or losses.
Child Custody and Support
Both these orders must be in the best interests of the children. Frequently, parents agree on this broad principle, but they disagree as to the details.
To resolve custody and parenting time disputes, many Williamson County judges rely heavily on social services reports. A social worker investigates the facts and makes a recommendation as to custody and parenting time. Since these reports have so much weight, it’s important for a child custody attorney to influence this process whenever possible.
Child support matters are usually more straightforward. Guideline amounts are presumptively reasonable. Since Tennessee is an income share state, these guidelines account for a number of factors, such as the parenting time distribution, the income of both parents, and child-rearing expenses like daycare costs.
Marriage dissolution is usually quite complex. For a free consultation with an experienced Franklin divorce lawyer, contact Stratton Law. Convenient payment plans are available.