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Domestic/Family Law

Domestic/Family Law


In order to file for divorce, grounds for divorce must be established. A divorce may either be contested or uncontested, but a divorce is rarely ever truly uncontested. If the parties to the divorce cannot agree or compromise on every issue, whether it be a parenting plan, division of property, or alimony, then the divorce is contested. Contested or uncontested, one of the following grounds must be established:

· Abandonment
· Adultery
· Attempt on the life of one’s spouse
· Bigamy
· Conviction of a felony
· Conviction of an infamous crime
· Desertion for one year
· Habitual drunkenness or abuse of narcotic drugs
· Impotence and inability to procreate
· Inappropriate marital conduct (formally called cruel and inhuman treatment)
· Indignities
· Irreconcilable Differences
· Refusal to move
· Pregnancy by another
· Two years separation after an order of legal separation


In order to file divorce in Tennessee, at least one of the parties to the divorce must have lived in Tennessee for 6 months immediately prior to filing for divorce. The divorce is filed in the county in which either party lived for those 6 prior months. If the grounds for divorce arose in a Tennessee county, then the 6 month period is not applicable and the divorce may be filed in that county.

The most common grounds for divorce is irreconcilable differences, but this grounds for divorce is only applicable if both parties can agree to having irreconcilables differences and work out a marital dissolution agreement. A marital dissolution agreement (MDA) documents the parties’ compromises and agreements pertaining to dissolution of property and spousal support. If the court agrees with the MDA, the judge will sign it and grant the divorce.

In situations in which the parties file for divorce using irreconcilable differences and intend on filing an MDA, it is highly recommended to consult an attorney. Even when compromise and agreement can be accomplished, an attorney can help ensure that your rights are being fully protected. On paper, it may seem like a fair agreement, but a party may legally be entitled to more or less than bargained for. In many cases, both parties want the process to be over and done with as quickly as possible, but it is important to diligently and patiently go through the divorce process in order to assure each party receives everything that they are legally entitled to. Having a divorce finalized may be important, but a party’s future security and peace of mind is equally important.


The divorce process can be very long or relatively short depending on the parties’ assets, attitudes, and consideration of the best interest of any marital children. A divorce begins by the filing of a divorce complaint by either party. Once the divorce is filed and served, there is a mandatory 60-day waiting period till the divorce can be finalized, if no children are involved. If the married couple has children, a 90-day waiting period is enforced.

The waiting period does not mean that the divorce is on hold, it just means that it cannot be finalized. Immediately after serving the opposing party, discovery may be conducted. Discovery consists of gathering pertinent information regarding assets, accounts, and property holdings. Both parties are required to respond completely and accurately with full records pertaining to this information. This information is used in the process of equitable distribution.


Equitable distribution is the process in which all marital property is divided equally, at least in theory. Property is considered either marital or separate. Separate property is only property that was brought into the marriage or bought before the marriage. Marital is any property or assets gained during marriage. Gifts and inheritance are typically considered separate even if gained during the marriage. Equitable distribution is not a simple process if these items or assets are in dispute. Complicating matters further, if one party owns a business or part of a business the other party may be entitled to some value from that business.


Spousal support is another complicated matter. It varies greatly depending on the length of the marriage and the roles that each spouse played during the marriage. Although support is governed by statute, judges also play an important role in determining the needs of each spouse. For example, it may be determined that a spouse is entitled to money to earn a degree in order to support his or herself. Generally, the longer the marriage, the more likely a lesser earning spouse would be entitled to permanent spousal support. If the marriage is of very short duration, it is possible that no spousal support will be granted.


The primary factor considered by the courts is the best interest of the child. The court has discretion in coming up with a wide array of parenting solutions in order to ensure that the best interest of the child is met. Custody is granted according to a Parenting Plan. A parenting plan is a detailed document outlining when each parent has physical possession of the child. No matter how equal or unequal the amount of time between each parent, there will always be an “alternate residential parent” and a “primary residential parent.” For the most part, the law does not recognize one parent as “having custody” rather than the other, and both parents are considered to have joint custody.

Child support can be incredibly complicated. Many factors go into a formula to determine which parent owes child support to the other parent. The major factors include the parents’ income and the amount of time the child(ren) spend with each parent. Ideally, the outcome will allow the child(ren) to live in the same manner in which they lived before the filing of a divorce. The parenting plan should also outline which parent is responsible for paying medical insurance, school expenses, and extracurricular expenses. Child support obligations typically last until the child turns 18 years old, or until otherwise agreed in the parenting plan. In situations where a child is disabled, support obligations may be ongoing.


Both child and spousal support may be modified if there has been a material change of circumstances. Showing the court that a material change exists may be difficult, as the court may consider whether the change was one that could be anticipated and whether or not the change is fixable.

Whether you are considering filing for a legal separation or modifying support obligations, it is highly recommended that your consult an attorney to ensure that your rights are being protected and that all avenues of relief have been considered. Brittany Gates can help guide you through your family law legal issue. To schedule an appointment please contact her office at 615-742-5373.

This is intended as general information and does not constitute legal advice.  Laws change frequently, so you should do further research or consult with a lawyer before relying on this information.