Making the decision to end your marriage is certainly not easy. There is simply no way around the emotional and practical upheaval a divorce typically causes in the lives of everyone involved. You do, however, have some control over how adversarial and contentious the divorce becomes, as does your spouse. Ideally, the two of you remain civil throughout the legal process and ultimately reach an out of court settlement, known as a “Marital Settlement Agreement.” A Murfreesboro divorce lawyer explains how a Marital Settlement Agreement works and why entering into one – when possible – reduces the emotional and financial cost of a divorce.
Making the Decision to End a Marriage
Whether you have been married for two years or 20 years, deciding to end your marriage is usually not a decision reached lightly nor without much soul searching. If there are minor children of the marriage, the impact the divorce will have on the children is a big concern. If you have decided that divorce is imminent, however, you have obviously reached that decision because you truly believe it is the best decision in the long-run. Although there is no way to completely avoid the emotional impact a divorce will have on everyone involved in the short run, there are definitely things you can do to minimize the negative impact a divorce can cause.
The Divorce Process – an Overview
In the State of Tennessee, the divorce process begins when one spouse files a Complaint for Divorce. The Complaint provides the court with basic information such as the date of the marriage and the grounds on which the Petitioner is filing for divorce. Like many states, Tennessee offers both fault, and no-fault, divorce grounds. No-fault refers to what most people know as “irreconcilable differences.” If you file using irreconcilable differences you are not required to prove anything other than that the marriage no longer works. Tennessee also offers a number of fault grounds, such as adultery, abuse, or desertion. If you allege one of these fault grounds, you must prove that your spouse is, indeed, guilty of the allegations.
The Complaint must be officially served on the Respondent (your spouse) who then has a statutory time frame within which to file a written Answer with the court. If no Answer is filed, you can ask for a default judgment. If an Answer is filed, the divorce proceeds to the discovery phase during which both sides share relevant information/evidence they may introduce at trial. At the same time, the parties should be attempting to negotiate resolutions as many contested issues as possible in the hope of avoiding a trial. Mediation may be beneficial if negotiations are stalled. If the parties cannot resolve all contested issues, the divorce will eventually proceed to trial where a judge or jury will decide the issues.
Marital Settlement Agreement Basics
A Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA) is essentially just what it sounds like – an agreement that resolves issues in a divorce. Some of the most common issues addressed in an MSA include:
- Division of marital assets, including the marital residence
- Division of marital debts
- The awarding of alimony, or spousal support, including the type, amount, and duration
- Custody of minor children
- Parenting time with minor children
- Child support
- Allocation of costs associated with the divorce
Note: Issues relating to parenting time with minor children, expenses related to the children, and child support will usually be addressed in a separate “Parenting Plan” that can become part of the larger MSA once approved by the court.
Benefits of Reaching an Agreement
Once a Marital Settlement Agreement has been agreed to and executed by both parties it is submitted to the court for approval. Assuming the judge approves the agreement, the provisions of the MSA become part of the final decree and, therefore, orders of the court. The benefits of reaching an MSA are numerous, such as:
- Significantly reduces the costs involved in a divorce — attorney fees alone will increase dramatically if the case goes to trial
- Moves the case along much faster – in many courts, trial dates are set many months, even years, out because of congestion
- Reduces the stress involved in a divorce
- Avoids the uncertainty of a trial – you never know how a judge or jury will decide important issues
Contact a Murfreesboro Divorce Lawyer
If you are contemplating divorce in the State of Tennessee, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Murfreesboro divorce lawyer as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are protected throughout your divorce. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.