Whether you are only contemplating a divorce or you have already made the difficult decision to proceed with the divorce process, you likely have a number of general questions about divorce laws and procedures. Questions are perfectly normal at this stage given the fact that a divorce will typically impact your life, and the lives of everyone involved, for many years to come. Because of the highly personal nature of the divorce process, you should direct specific questions to your Tennessee divorce attorney. In the meantime, however, you should find the following five questions for a divorce lawyer beneficial.
- What are the basic steps in a typical divorce? As you may well imagine, the more complex your divorce is, and the more antagonistic is turns out to be, the more steps you will likely have to go through. All Tennessee divorces, however, must go through some basic steps, including:
- Filing the Petition – the Petition provides the court with basic information about the marriage and explains what you are asking for in the divorce.
- Serving the Respondent – you must officially serve the Respondent (your spouse) with the Petition and a Summons. The Respondent then has a limited amount of time within which to file a written Answer or he/she forfeits the right to participate in the divorce proceedings.
- Requesting default judgment if no Answer filed – if no Answer is filed within the allotted time frame you may ask for a Default Judgment that will result in the divorce being final and will give you most of the terms you asked for in the Petition.
- Submission of Marital Settlement Agreement – at any time during the divorce, the parties may reach an agreement that decides all issues in the divorce. This agreement is referred to as a Marital Settlement Agreement and must be submitted to the court for approval.
- Discovery – if an Answer is filed, but no agreement is forthcoming yet, the parties move into the Discovery phase. During this time, the parties exchange relevant information and documents they each intend to use at trial.
- Mediation – if an agreement has still not been reached, the court may encourage mediation. Mediation involves a neutral mediator who attempts to help both sides in an effort to reach an agreement and avoid trial.
- Trial – if there are still contested issues at this point, the case will be scheduled for trial where a judge or jury will decide the issues.
- What happens if my spouse never answers the Complaint? As long as your spouse was properly served, failing to file an Answer means that he/she gives up the right to participate in the divorce process and you effectively are awarded what you asked for in the original Petition for Divorce.
- How will the judge split up our assets and debts? Tennessee is an “equitable distribution” state. This does not always mean that marital property is divided equally. It is divided fairly. Separate property remains the property of the original owner. Separate property usually refers to anything owned prior to the marriage or that is gifted or inherited during the marriage.
- How will custody be decided? Like most states, Tennessee has done away with any presumptions in favor of the mother where custody is concerned. The judge will decide custody based on the “best interest of the child” standard. Numerous factors may be considered, such as the relationship a child has with both parents, the parent’s ability to support and nurture the child, and any history of abuse.
- How long will my divorce take? Tennessee is one of many states that employs a “cooling down,” or waiting period, before a divorce can be finalized. If there are no minor children, the waiting time is 60 days from the date the Petition is filed. If there are minor children, a 90 day waiting period applies. Keep in mind, however, that for your divorce to actually be finalized at the end of either waiting period you will have to have reached an agreement that resolves all issues in the divorce. If any contested issues remain, the divorce will proceed through the remaining stages. In that case, it could take more than a year to complete the divorce process.
Contact a Tennessee Divorce Lawyer
If you are contemplating divorce in the State of Tennessee, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced divorce lawyer as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are protected throughout the divorce process. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.