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There are many preliminary decisions that must be made during a legal separation or divorce. A Memphis divorce attorney can be a great resource to help you answer questions about issues such as division of money and assets, visitation and support of children, and spousal support. Because divorce can be a long and stressful process, it’s important to have a divorce attorney who is knowledgeable and empathetic to your situation.

Grounds for Divorce in Tennessee

There are two categories of grounds for divorce in Tennessee. The first is “No Fault” and the second is “Fault”.

No fault grounds for divorce include irreconcilable differences or a separation of two years with no minor children involved in the case.

It gets more complicated when the grounds cite fault. Grounds for fault include adultery, cruelty or violence, including attempted murder of the spouse, spousal desertion for one year or absent from Tennessee for two years, drug or alcohol addiction, impotency, if the woman was pregnant by another man at the time of the marriage, without the knowledge of the husband, indignities that render the other spouse’s condition or life intolerable, conviction of an infamous crime or felony, a previous marriage that remains unresolved, abandonment by refusing or neglecting to provide when having the ability to do so.

The Divorce Process in Memphis

The residency requirements for filing for divorce in Memphis are that the plaintiff or defendant has resided in Tennessee for six months preceding the filing, or one year prior for military personnel or a spouse.

For Memphis divorces, you must file at the Shelby County Courthouse. There are two courts where your case can be assigned, either the Chancery Court or the Circuit Court. Forms that are required can be obtained from the court clerk at the Shelby County Courthouse.

There is a waiting period of 90 days in Shelby County if minor children are involved and 60 days if there are no minor children.

Step 1: Filing the Divorce Petition sets the divorce process in motion. The respondent will file an answer and generally this step is simply perfunctory.

Step 2: Temporary Motions may be filed to address any pressing issues that cannot wait until the end of the divorce. For instance, if children are in danger a request may be made to protect them immediately.

Step 3: Discovery is the process of gathering all the information to both support your case and to refute your spouse’s case.

Step 4: Settlement often happens before the case goes to trial. This is usually to your advantage because it means you have control over the outcome. If you can’t reach a settlement before trial, the judge will make your decisions for you.

Step 5: A Pre-Trial Conference is the next step and can be the final, official push that many couples need to begin to approach negotiations more rationally. Input from the judge often helps the parties to come to a settlement before the expense of a trial.

Step 6: The Trial is the final step, once all attempts to reach a settlement have been exhausted. Both sides will have the opportunity to present their case, and ultimately the decisions will come from the judge.

Divorce and Property

The first step in determining the division of property is to identify all the assets held by the couple. Each asset will be classified as an asset assigned to one spouse, if it was obtained before the marriage, or to both spouses if acquired after the marriage. Next, a valuation for each asset is created. While the goal in Memphis divorce is always an equitable distribution of property, each divorce requires a case-by-case determination.

Once you file for divorce, the State of Tennessee puts into effect an automatic temporary injunction that prevents either spouse from disposing of, dissipating, transferring, assigning, borrowing against, or concealing marital property while the divorce case is pending. These acts can only be undertaken with approval from both spouses or through a court order.

Divorce and Children

Tennessee, like most states, requires divorcing parents of minor children to attend a four-hour parenting class before a divorce will be granted. The class is designed to help parents, children, and the family as a whole to get through the traumatic divorce process as best they can. The class provides advice on dealing with children’s questions and appropriate interactions between divorcing spouses when it comes to the children.

When there is a high level of conflict, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem, or a GAL, to assist. The GAL will gather information from the parents, teachers, friends, neighbors and daycare providers of the children to assist in the child custody decisions.

The court may, in some cases where mental illness, drug use, or emotional abuse are alleged, order an independent evaluation for child custody. An independent and court-appointed forensic psychologist will conduct mental health evaluations and use other tools to aid in decision making.

Many people assume that a child over 12 years old is able to determine for themselves which parent they should live with or visit with. This is not true. This decision rests with the judge. However, a child over the age of 12 is provided the opportunity, if they choose, to state their preferences. This can be done in the courtroom or in the judge’s chambers to make the child feel more comfortable.

Your lawyer, and the judge, will always consider the best interest of the child above all else.

How is Child Support Determined?

The Department of Human Services Child Support Guidelines is used to determine the amount of child support. Parents may together make other choices, but if the amount of support falls outside the guidelines, then court approval must be obtained.

In Tennessee, essentially the goal is to have the children supported at the same level as if both parents were living together. The combined income of the parents is used to determine the support amount and then each parent’s share of the obligation is determined in proportion to their income.

Divorce and Alimony

While alimony is less common than it used to be, it is still used in practice.

There are several types of alimony, including rehabilitative, periodic, and in solido. The differences between the types generally fall around method of payment and duration. The goal of rehabilitative and periodic alimony is to provide time and support for one spouse to regain some of the economic and material status that was gained during the marriage. Rehabilitative alimony usually has a set end date, which is set by the court. Periodic alimony is used when there is a severe imbalance and one spouse is not likely to be able to regain the status. Usually this type of alimony lasts until remarriage or death.

Alimony in solido is usually a lump sum alimony payment and is sometimes used to help a disadvantaged spouse with payments for legal fees from the divorce proceedings.

Contact a Memphis Divorce Attorney

Going through the divorce process can create long-term and serious effects on all parties, not just the children. Your attorney can be your key advisor as you move through the process. You are not walking this emotional and legal path alone when you hire a capable and experienced divorce attorney to protect your rights and those of your family.