For most people, going through a divorce is a difficult and complicated time period. Navigating the justice system is complicated enough when emotions are not also involved. When you add in the heightened emotions brought on by the end of a marriage, it is definitely not the best time to be trying to navigate a system with which you are unfamiliar. At the same time, lack of knowledge about the rules and procedures related to the divorce process can result in missing an important deadline or even losing your entire case for a procedural error. The best way to ensure that does not happen is to retain the services of an experienced Tennessee divorce attorney to assist you throughout the process. In the meantime, a Murfreesboro divorce lawyer answers the top five questions relating to a Tennessee divorce.
- What if we agree on everything? Ideally, you and your spouse will be able to sit down and calmly decide how each potential issue in your divorce will be decided. From that point, you can reduce those decisions and agreements to a Marital Settlement Agreement that will be submitted to the court. Reaching an agreement will dramatically reduce the time and cost of your divorce, making it the ideal scenario. If your spouse’s lawyer drafts the Marital Settlement Agreement, that attorney is drafting the agreement with the best interests of your spouse in mind. Those interests do not necessarily conflict with your best interests, but if they do, your spouse’s attorney is under no obligation to tell you that. For this reason alone it is always wise to have your own divorce attorney review a proposed Marital Settlement Agreement that has been drafted by another attorney.
- How are debts and assets handled in a divorce? Marital assets are divided using an equitable divisions standard. This does not always mean that assets are divided equally, but they will be divided fairly. Debts are treated essentially the same way as assets in a divorce. The first step is to classify assets and debts as separate or marital assets/debts. Assets owned or debts incurred prior to the marriage are the separate assets/debts of the individual who owned the asset or incurred the debt and are not subject to division during the divorce process. Marital assets are those acquired after the marriage. Marital debts include those incurred by both spouses and also those incurred by either individual spouse during the course of the marriage.
- What is a Parenting Plan? In 2001, a new Tennessee law created “Parenting Plans.” Every divorce that involves minor children is now required to include a Parenting Plan that sets forth how the parties will continue to parent the minor children post-divorce. As part of the new law, “custody” as a legal term was changed and the terms primary residential parent (PRP) and alternative residential parent (ARP) were created. Primary residential parent refers to the parent with whom a child lives more than with the other parent while the other parent is the alternative residential parent. The Parenting Plan will include a detailed schedule indicating when the ARP is to exercise his/her “parenting time” with the children. In addition, the term “legal custody” no longer officially exists in Tennessee. “Legal custody” used to refer to a parent’s right to make important decisions relating the child’s life, such as where the child would go to school, what religion the child would practice, or what medical treatment the child would receive. Today, those decisions can be allocated anyway the parents agree or as the court decides.
- How is custody of our children decided if we can’t agree? When all attempts at an out of court resolution have failed, the court is forced to decide custodial issues. When that is the case, a judge is required, by law, to make those decisions using the “best interest if the child” standard. What, exactly, does that mean though? If you find yourself depending on a judge to decide the issue of custody of your child, you undoubtedly want to know what that judge will consider when determining the best interest of your child. Th list is fairly long and can be found in Tennessee Code 36-6-106.
- When should I consult a divorce attorney? Do not wait until the divorce has been filed by your spouse or even until you are 100 percent certain that you want to file. Consult with an attorney as soon as divorce is even a consideration to ensure that your rights are protected should the divorce proceed.
Contact a Murfreesboro Divorce Lawyer
If you have additional questions or concerns about divorce in the State of Tennessee, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Tennessee divorce attorney as soon as possible. Contact the team at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.