DIVORCE & LEGAL SEPARATION
A good divorce is better than a bad marriage. There are two main ways of resolving divorce disputes: mediation and litigation.
Divorce litigation is financially and emotionally expensive, often lasting more than eighteen months, costing thousands of dollars, and leaving decisions in the hands of a trial judge. Mediation provides a forum for people to reach negotiated divorce agreements that are agreed to by both people. When mediation is possible, it is usually the best option. However, complex divorce issues, the division of assets and liabilities, alimony, and child placement often drive divorce disputes into the courts.
Legal Separation in Tennessee
Tennessee provides for spouses to seek a legal separation instead of a divorce. In a legal separation, you can divide the assets and liabilities, provide for the residential placement of children, and set up financial support payments. If a legal separation agreement is in place, and it provides for the disposition of all assets and liabilities, either party may submit the legal separation agreement to the court to finalize a divorce. The advantage of a legal separation is that the parties are still married. This means that a spouse can remain under the insurance coverage of the insured spouse and that the parties maintain the legal relationship of marriage in the event of death or disability of a spouse.
Divorce lawsuits are complex. To file a divorce in Tennessee, five separate issues must be decided:
Grounds for Divorce – Who is granted the divorce? The grounds for divorce in Tennessee include abandonment, two years separation, adultery, inappropriate marital conduct, and irreconcilable differences.
Child Residential Placement – Commonly referred to as child custody, child placement involves the living and visitation rights of each parent. Prior to the completion of the divorce, the parent must attend a co-parenting class and complete a parenting plan. If the parents cannot agree on a parenting plan, the judge will decide.
Child Support – Child support is mandated by law. Tennessee uses the "income shares" model. Child support is set on the income of the non-residential parent, the costs of work-related childcare, the cost of health insurance for the children, the amount of time that each parent spends with the children, whether or not either parent has other minor children that they are supporting, and other extraordinary circumstances, such as private school, medical needs, etc.
Property Division – Tennessee is an equitable division state, meaning that the parties shall equitably divide the assets and liabilities. This does not necessarily mean "equal". But in today’s society, where both spouses are employed or have the ability to earn, the division will frequently be equal. It is very important to get a snapshot picture of the parties’ financial status at the very beginning of the divorce process.
Alimony – Alimony, also called spousal rehabilitation, is the financial support awarded to a spouse. Alimony payments will depend on a number of factors to be decided by the court, including the employability of each party, the size of the net estate of each party after the divorce, the separate assets of the parties, each party’s contribution to the marital estate, and the relative fault of the parties. Alimony in Tennessee is generally tax-deductible for the person paying the alimony and taxable income to the person receiving the alimony. Tennessee has four classifications of alimony.
Tennessee Classifications of Alimony
Periodic Alimony or Alimony in Futuro: In a long-term marriage, alimony may be ordered until the death or remarriage of the obligee spouse (typically the wife). Periodic alimony can be modified after the divorce.
Transitional Alimony: Transitional alimony will be for a set period of time and for a set amount. It is intended to give one spouse time to adjust to their post-divorce financial status. Transitional alimony cannot be modified. It is intended to be for the short term.
Rehabilitative Alimony: Rehabilitative alimony will be for a set period of time and for a set amount. It is intended to give one spouse the financial means to acquire work skills and reenter the workforce. Rehabilitative alimony is modifiable.
In Solido: In solido mean "solid" or in one lump sum. This form of alimony is made in one lump sum which can be paid out of the assets or be set up on periodic payments. Attorney’s fees are sometimes ordered as alimony in solido. This form of alimony is typically not considered to be tax-deductible for the payor.