Preparing for a divorce is difficult. Outside of the emotional pain, divorce brings many challenges to your family, personal property, and finances. Hiring an experienced Tennessee divorce attorney is critical in going through the steps to getting a divorce. The proper attorney can help advise and walk you through the best ways to protect yourself when getting a divorce.
Divorce is extremely common. Many people have been divorced multiple times, and the fallout can affect them and their families for the rest of their lives. It’s never an easy decision to make but you shouldn’t rush into a divorce. It’s not a simple decision and every factor should be thought through carefully. Divorce can create lifelong changes and have a long-term emotional impact on yourself and your loved ones.
Tennessee divorce laws classify two types of divorce—contested and uncontested. When spouses agree on the grounds for divorce, it’s considered uncontested. If spouses don’t agree on the grounds for divorce, it’s considered contested and both parties must go to trial to reach a settlement. There are various grounds for contested divorce such as adultery, inappropriate marital conduct, or conviction of a felony.
There are many big questions to ask yourself when getting a divorce, and some might not be as obvious. It’s essential to answer these questions honestly to make the right decision on when to get a divorce. Here are 6 things you should consider before following through with a divorce.
1. Consider Your Children
Children are the first and most important aspect to consider during a divorce. Tennessee divorce laws work in the best interest of the child, but this does not take away the emotional turmoil that may occur.
New legislation makes it mandatory for courts to try to maximize the child(ren)’s time with each parent. The number of days each parent spends with the child(ren) is important for various reasons, including child support and the possible future relocation of one parent.
A few issues to consider before getting a divorce include:
- What school will the child attend after the divorce?
- The proximity of the parents to each other after the divorce (especially if the parents are trying to do a “split” parenting schedule)
2. Real Estate and Mortgage Payments
Many divorce cases involve real estate because you and your spouse likely purchased a home together. Even if only one individual was making the mortgage payments, both individuals are typically on the mortgage loan.
Prior to signing a Marital Dissolution Agreement or a contested divorce trial, the parties must ascertain the amount of equity in their real estate so that it can be included in the marital estate division. In this case, you might want to consider conducting an appraisal of the real property to determine the present fair market value.
If one spouse wants to keep the home but the mortgage is in both spouse’s names, the spouse keeping the home will have to refinance the loan so that it is in that spouse’s name only. Courts typically will not allow the spouse maintaining the property to continue to encumber the other spouse’s credit.
Under Tennessee statute, a third-party creditor is not obligated to honor the terms of any divorce decree or debt payment agreement. This means that if your name is still on the mortgage and your spouse falls behind on the payments, the mortgage company can still sue you. This can occur even if your spouse is responsible for the payment under the terms of the divorce decree.
As a result, courts almost always require that the home be refinanced or sold.
3. Credit Card Payments
If you and your spouse have a joint bank account, both individuals should decide who wants to keep the card and continue making payments. The other individual should remove their name from the shared credit card as soon as possible. This will help make things easier should the other spouse not make a payment. The same law holds true that if your name is still on the card and your spouse fails to make payments, the credit card company can still sue you.
4. Joint Car Loan
Car loans are extremely challenging to refinance. In most scenarios, the spouse who is awarded a vehicle will be responsible for making the loan payments. However, if the loan is in both parties’ names and the responsible party falls behind on the payments, it will negatively affect both spouse’s credit scores.
If you or your spouse want to keep a vehicle that is financed in both of your names, you should consider paying off the joint car loan as soon as possible or trading in the vehicle to obtain new financing in only one spouse’s name.
5. Small Business Ownership
Owning a small business is difficult in a divorce because both spouses might be interested in owning the business. The type of business, ownership structure, and the other spouse’s role are all critical aspects of the decision. Unless both parties can come to an agreement, a third party will need to evaluate the business to determine its value.
6. Alimony in Tennessee
Courts consider various factors in determining an award of alimony in Tennessee, including the length of the marriage and the health of both spouses. However, the two most significant factors they consider are the economically disadvantaged spouse’s need for alimony and the other spouse’s ability to pay. When contemplating divorce, the economically disadvantaged spouse should create a budget in order to determine what their expenses will be and how much support they will need after the divorce to be able to pay these expenses. Planning ahead for divorce is hard, but it’s a smart first step. Having an experienced divorce attorney will help to make the painful process much smoother.
Steps To Getting a Divorce
Once you or your spouse makes a final decision, there are 5 steps to getting a divorce.
- File a Divorce Petition
Once you decide when to get a divorce, one spouse must file a legal petition asking the courts to terminate the marriage regardless of whether both spouses agree to divorce. The petition must inform the court that at least one spouse meets the state’s residency requirements for divorce and includes a legal reason or grounds for divorce and any other information required by your state.
Residency requirements vary by state, but most states require that at least one spouse live in the state for three to twelve months, and in the county, the spouse filed for at least 10 days to six months. Grounds for divorce also vary by state. Some states allow you to file a no-fault divorce, which streamlines the process by listing no reason or blame on either spouse.
Some individuals are stay-at-home parents who rely on their spouse for financial support, so waiting six months for a divorce to finalize isn’t feasible for everyone. In this scenario, courts allow you to file a temporary court order for child custody, child support, and spousal support. The court will schedule a hearing and request additional information from each spouse to determine how to rule the application.
2. Request Temporary Orders
Other temporary orders might include status quo payments or property restraining orders. A status quo payment requires that the spouse who brings in the most income continue paying marital debts through the divorce process. A temporary property restraining order will protect either spouse from selling or disposing of their marital property. In this scenario, both spouses must oblige by the restraining order or face penalization by the courts.
3. Serve Your Spouse Divorce Paperwork
You must serve your spouse with divorce paperwork and file proof of service with the courts, proving that you meet all the requirements to give your spouse a copy of the petition. If you fail to provide proof of service, the judge won’t proceed with your divorce case. The spouse receiving the divorce paperwork must submit an answer within an allotted period. The spouse can dispute the grounds for divorce or any other information in the petition. Still, failure to respond can result in a “non-judgment” against them and is complicated and expensive to reverse.
4. Negotiate a Settlement
After the paperwork is served, spouses must negotiate a settlement. If they can’t come to a mutual agreement on topics such as child custody, support, or property division, they will need to go to trial, where the courts will help resolve issues and reach a settlement. Divorce trials put decisions in the hands of the judges and are expensive and time-consuming. Therefore, it’s in spouses’ best interest to settle on their terms.
5. Finalize the Judgment
Once a settlement has been reached, the courts will finalize the judgment. They will outline specifics on parenting responsibilities and how spouses will divide up their assets and debts. If spouses settle on their own, the spouse’s attorney will draft up the judgment. Otherwise, the courts will issue the final order.
Divorce and Family Attorneys in Middle Tennessee
Preparing for a divorce is emotional and challenging for all parties involved. Enlisting the help of a trusted attorney can advise you on the best ways to protect yourself while ensuring a smooth process. Flexer Law has been serving the legal needs of Middle Tennessee residents since 1981. Our experienced divorce attorneys will work diligently on your behalf to provide you with the best solution for you and your family. We have three office locations throughout Middle Tennessee to accommodate your legal needs. Contact us for a free consultation, virtually or in person.