Going through a divorce is rarely easy. When the divorce involves minor children, however, it can significantly increase the emotional impact of a divorce. When heightened emotions are involved, the risk of the divorce process turning adversarial increases exponentially. One of the most common areas of contention is custody of the minor children. At the end of the divorce process, the issue of custody and parenting time with the children will be resolved permanently. While the divorce is pending though, who has custody of the minor children of the marriage? What about visitation with the children? A Murfreesboro divorce lawyer explains who has custody while the divorce is pending.
An Overview of the Divorce Process
If you have never been through a divorce before, the thought of having to navigate the legal system during such a stressful and emotional time period is probably rather intimidating. It helps, therefore, to have some idea what to expect from the divorce process itself.
The legal process by which a marriage is terminated officially begins when one party files a Complaint for Divorce. This document provides basic information about the parties and the marriage as well as informs the court what the Plaintiff (the person who filed the Complaint) wants from the lawsuit. The Complaint, along with other supporting documents, must be properly served on the Respondent (other spouse) who then has the option to file a formal Answer in writing with the court within the time frame allotted by law. If the Respondent does not answer the Complaint, the Petitioner may request a default judgment in his/her favor. If the Respondent does file an Answer, the parties then proceed to the discovery process and attempt to negotiate a settlement that resolves all issues between the parties. If all attempts to reach a settlement fail, the case will eventually go to trial where a judge or jury will decide all contested issues.
Custody of the Children During the Divorce
Given the emotional nature of a divorce, it should come as no surprise that there is frequently a good deal of animosity between the parties at the time a divorce is initiated. Unfortunately, that animosity often prevents the parties from agreeing on custodial and visiting arrangements while the divorce is pending. All too often, one parent will simply take the children and leave without making any arrangements for the children to see the other parent. If you find yourself in a similar situation, whether you are the parent with the children or the parent who hasn’t seen the children in some time, you need to know what the law says about the matter.
Until the parties to a divorce reach a settlement agreement, or the court enters an order regarding custody, both parents retain equal custodial rights to the minor children. That means that neither parent has the right to abscond with the children nor keep the children from the other parent. Given the nature of a divorce proceeding, it is obviously difficult for the parties to share custody, from a practical standpoint, while a divorce is pending since they are likely no longer living in the same house. To resolve this dilemma, it is common to petition the court for a temporary order covering custody and parenting time with the children. A temporary order will only be valid while the divorce is pending; although, it may become a permanent order if it is wrapped up into the Parenting Plan submitted to the court at the end of the divorce process. The important thing to understand is that while the divorce is pending, a temporary custody order is an order of the court and you must abide by the order or face sanctions for violating the court’s order. Keep in mind as well that while both parents retain equal rights to the children while the divorce is pending, they also retain equal responsibility for the care and maintenance of the children. As such, the court may also enter a temporary child support order while the divorce is pending.
Contact a Murfreesboro Divorce Lawyer
If you have additional questions or concerns about a divorce in the State of Tennessee, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Tennessee divorce lawyer as soon as possible. Contact the team at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.