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Preparing for Divorce

Law Offices of Fisher Wise April 14, 2022

The divorce rate for married couples in Tennessee stands at 12 percent. Maine tops the list at 14 percent, and California has the lowest rate at 9 percent. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the three top reasons for divorce are incompatibility (43 percent), infidelity (28 percent), and money issues (22 percent).

If you and your spouse are weighing your future options, including the possibility of divorce, there are several practical steps you need to take. One of them involves obtaining the services of a family law attorney who can guide you through the legal steps of the divorce process.

If you are facing divorce in or around Chattanooga, Tennessee, or have already been served papers, you need to act quickly to protect your interests and chart a secure path forward.

If you find yourself in this situation, contact me at the Law Offices of Fisher Wise. I will help you with all the details of your divorce, including asset division, child custody, visitation rights, and alimony, all while extending compassion and understanding during your time of mental and emotional stress.

I proudly serve clients in Red Bank, East Ridge, Soddy-Daisy, and throughout the counties of Marion, Rhea, Sequatchie, and Hamilton.

Divorce in Tennessee

Tennessee recognizes both fault and no-fault divorces. A no-fault divorce requires that both spouses affirm there are “irreconcilable differences” that prevent the marriage from going forward. If one spouse doesn’t agree, then the only option is for an at-fault divorce, which can take much longer and cost more in court and attorney fees.

A common reason for an at-fault divorce is “inappropriate marital conduct,” which can be something as simple as not taking out the trash. Another reason can be adultery, which can additionally be used to argue for or against alimony, or spousal support, depending on who the adulterer was.

Divorces can also be contested or uncontested. Uncontested means the spouses agree on all aspects of the divorce and submit an agreement to the court for approval. Unless the agreement is one-sided, favoring one spouse wildly over the other, the court will likely approve the plan. A contested divorce means basically to battle it out before a judge.

Steps to Take to Prepare for Divorce

Though it’s possible for a couple to agree on all the details of their divorce and then submit a settlement plan to the court for approval, there are still hidden potential legal pitfalls. What may seem initially like a meeting of the minds, when it comes to actually carrying out the agreed settlement, one or both parties may have different understandings and interpretations. It is better to get everything down in writing in sound legal terms to avoid disputes that result in endless personal and legal altercations.

So, the first step in preparing for divorce is to hire an experienced family law attorney. It’s very challenging to try to get all the legal agreements and documents done by yourself.

Then come the practical aspects: assets and children. If you have a joint bank account, you’ll want to create a private banking account and redirect your deposits there so your spouse can’t just drain everything and leave you with no spending cash or money for bills.

The same goes for retirement accounts and life insurance policies. If you’re divorcing, you may want to change the beneficiary on these instruments.

Debts are obviously another consideration. Joint debts will have to be shared after divorce, but if one spouse was a spendthrift and ran up huge personal debts, the other spouse is going to need to protect against being dunned for debts he or she didn’t agree to. Again, you need an attorney’s counsel and guidance.

Assets in Tennessee are divided between marital and personal assets. Generally speaking, personal assets are anything either spouse acquired before being married, whether a car, home, land, and so on.

Unless these personal assets become commingled through the use of joint funds to pay for them – say, to pay a mortgage or car note – then they will likely remain in the possession of the spouse who originally acquired them. Marital assets, anything acquired by either spouse during the time of marriage, will have to be divided.

Tennessee is not a community property state, where marital assets are considered to be shared 50/50. Instead, state law recognizes the equitable distribution of assets. This means if one spouse stayed home to be a parent while the other worked and advanced in his or her profession, the stay-at-home spouse will likely be treated more favorably in terms of asset distribution.

Then there’s the question of children. If there are minor children at the time of divorce, both custody and visitation issues will need to be resolved. It is better if the spouses can reconcile these issues among themselves, but if not, the court will rule on the status of the children, who gets custody, and how visitation rights are allocated.

Let the Law Offices of Fisher Wise Help

Divorce is obviously a time of great emotional and mental stress, which makes it hard for the spouses to confront the choices ahead of them. That’s why having a family law attorney on your side can make all the difference.

If you’re facing divorce in or around Chattanooga, Tennessee, or in neighboring cities and counties, contact me at the Law Offices of Fisher Wise. I will be your staunch advocate during this difficult period of your life.