Family law is a complex legal area that includes consequential matters like divorce, child custody, and property division. However, an experienced attorney like Amanda J. Gentry will make a huge different in your ability and confidence in navigating the legal system. Whether you have questions about property division or seek guidance in filing for divorce, Attorney Gentry can walk you through every step of the process to the very end. She is a passionate and down-to-earth advocate will advocate fiercely for your interests in the negotiation room. She will not back down from her fight on your behalf, and you can trust her to do her best for you and your child.
There are a couple basic requirements for filing for divorce in Tennessee. Firstly, one spouse must have been a Tennessee resident for at least 6 months before filing. Secondly, the filing spouse must list a “ground” (reason) for divorce. This reason could be based on one partner’s fault (e.g., adultery, substance abuse), but it could also be no-fault based, simply citing “irreconcilable differences.”
To settle a divorce, a couple can discuss a settlement between themselves and their attorneys, negotiate in mediation, or, if all else fails, take the case to trial. A separation agreement is advantageous to going to trial, as spouses can have strict authority to negotiate decisions like child custody, property division, alimony, and child support, rather than defaulting to a judge’s final decision in trial. Nonetheless, if the couple cannot agree on their own, they will proceed to litigation.
Child Custody Negotiations
One important divorce negotiation is child custody. Note that under Tennessee’s child custody laws, one parent will be designated the primary residential parent who lives with the child more than half the time and is the one who is more involved in the child’s day-to-day decisions.
To determine who will be the primary residential parent, the judge will examine what is in the child's best interests, such as:
- the child's relationship with each parent;
- each parent's role in parental caretaking obligations;
- the child’s preference if they are over the age of 12;
- the child's relationships with siblings and extended family members;
- the child's adjustment to home, school, and community;
- the importance of continuity in the child's life including the length of time the child has lived in the current environment;
- either parent's history of domestic violence or emotional abuse;
- each parent's moral, physical, mental and emotional fitness;
- the child's reasonable preference if 12 years old or older;
- each parent's work schedule; and
- any other relevant factor.
Another important divorce issue in negotiation is how the marital property will be distributed among the spouses. Note that Tennessee is an equitable distribution state, which means the judge will divide the couple's property fairly, not necessarily equally. To decide on the terms of the division, the judge will examine factors including:
- the length of the marriage;
- each spouse's age, physical, and mental health;
- each spouse's vocational skills, employability, earning capacity, estate, financial liabilities, and financial needs of each spouse;
- either spouse's tangible or intangible contribution to the other's career or education;
- each spouse's future earning potential;
- each spouse's contributions as a homemaker or wage earner;
- the value of each spouse's separate property;
- the estate of each spouse at the time of the marriage;
- each spouse's current economic situation;
- the tax consequences of property awarded to each spouse;
- the amount of Social Security benefits available to each spouse; and
- any other relevant factor.
Note that a court won't typically divide a home; instead, they could order the couple to sell the marital home and divide the proceeds. However, a judge could also order the couple to wait until a future date to do so and award one spouse a temporary right to live in the home, which is often the case when the couple has minor children still living in the home.
If you have questions about a family law concern you are currently facing, contact the Law Offices of Amanda J. Gentry online or at (615) 235-5096 for a consultation.
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