Even when a marriage is clearly over, the thought of going through the legal process of divorce can be daunting. If you find yourself facing a divorce, you undoubtedly hope to keep it simple. That means uncontested. Unfortunately, many divorces end up being long, drawn out, contested divorces. To help you keep your divorce uncontested, a Murfreesboro contested divorce lawyer at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby explains three common reasons for a divorce to be contested.
The Division of Debts and Assets
When a married couple gets divorced, all the marital assets and debts must be divided during the divorce process. If the parties are unable to agree on how all assets and debts are to be divided, the divorce becomes a contested divorce. Tennessee is an “equitable distribution” state, meaning that if a court is required to divide the marital property the court must create an “equitable distribution” of assets. This does not mean that the court must divide the assets equally, only fairly.
Keep in mind that only marital assets are subject to division in a divorce. The separate property of each party remains the property of that party after the divorce. A dispute can also arise if the parties cannot agree on whether an asset is marital or separate property. Tennessee Code Section 36-4-121 defines marital property as follows: “Marital property means all real and personal property, both tangible and intangible, acquired by either or both spouses during the course of the marriage up to the date of the final divorce hearing and owned by either or both spouses as of the date of filing of a complaint for divorce, except in the case of fraudulent conveyance in anticipation of filing, and including any property to which a right was acquired up to the date of the final divorce hearing, and valued as of a date as near as reasonably possible to the final divorce hearing date. . .” Conversely, separate property generally includes the following:
- All real and personal property owned by a spouse before the marriage.
- Property acquired in exchange for property a spouse acquired before the marriage.
- Income from property (for example, rent) and appreciation of property (increase in value) owned by a spouse before marriage, except when characterized as marital property.
- Property acquired by a spouse at any time by gift, bequest, devise, or descent (inheritance).
- If a spouse suffers a personal injury or is the victim of a crime, then pain and suffering awards, victim of crime compensation awards, future medical expenses, and future lost wages.
- Property acquired by a spouse after an order of legal separation where the court has made a final disposition of property.
Issues Relating to Minor Children
If a divorce involves minor children, the terms of the required Parenting Plan can quickly turn an amicable divorce into a contested divorce. The law begins with the proposition that it is in the best interest of the child of a marriage to continue to have the affection and support of both parents after a divorce. Consequently, a Parenting Plan must be developed and approved by the court. The Parenting Plan must contain information about how the parents plan to handle basic parenting issues after the divorce, such as:
- Who will be the primary residential parent (who will the child live with most of the time?)
- What will the parenting time (visitation) schedule be with the non-residential parent?
- Who will pay child support and how much will the support be?
- Who will be responsible for the child’s medical insurance?
- How will the non-residential parent communicate with the child post-divorce?
- How will the parents communicate with each other after the divorce?
- How will the parents resolve problems that crop up in the future?
Spousal support (also referred to as alimony) is not part of the division of marital assets nor does alimony have anything to do with child support; however, if one party requests spousal support it can cause an otherwise uncontested divorce to become contested. Typically, spousal support is intended to provide a financial “cushion” for a limited time to a spouse after a divorce to give the spouse time to re-enter the workforce or go back to school to become more competitive in the job market. Usually, spousal support is not intended to provide financial support on an ongoing or indefinite basis. If the marriage was one of long duration (at least ten years), however, ongoing spousal support may be a legitimate request that can become a disputed issue in the divorce.
Contact a Murfreesboro Contested Divorce Lawyer
If you have additional questions about a contested divorce in Tennessee, it is important that you consult with an experienced Murfreesboro contested divorce lawyer to ensure that your rights are protected throughout the process. Contact the team at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.