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Tennessee Family Law

Tennessee Family Law

Family law deals with matters related to the family unit, including marriage, divorce, child custody, adoption, and child support. In the state of Tennessee, family law is primarily governed by state laws, which are set out in the Tennessee Code Annotated. Here’s a detailed look at various aspects of Tennessee family law.

Marriage in Tennessee

Marriage in Tennessee is governed by the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act. Partners need to obtain a valid marriage license from the county clerk’s office to get married. The marriage license fee varies depending on the county. Both partners must be at least 16 years old to get married in Tennessee. If either partner is under 18, they must obtain parental consent. If either partner is under 16, they must obtain a court order.

The state of Tennessee does not recognize common-law marriages. However, same-sex marriages are legal in the state, after the Supreme Court of the United States legalized same-sex marriage in the landmark Obergefell v. Hodges case in 2015.

Divorce in Tennessee

In Tennessee, divorce is known as a “dissolution of marriage.” To file for divorce, a spouse must meet residency requirements, which include being a resident of Tennessee for at least six months before filing for divorce. Moreover, the spouse must file the divorce petition in the county where either spouse resides.

Tennessee is a “no-fault” divorce state, meaning that a spouse doesn’t have to prove that the other spouse did something wrong to cause the divorce. Instead, spouses can file for divorce on the grounds of “irreconcilable differences” or “living apart for two years or more.”

Under Tennessee law, the court may grant alimony to one spouse after a divorce. Alimony is money paid by one spouse to the other to help the receiving spouse with living expenses. The court considers factors like the length of the marriage, the earning capacity of each spouse, and the standard of living during the marriage to determine the alimony amount. Moreover, the court has the discretion to award temporary alimony payments during the divorce proceedings itself if deemed necessary.

Division of Property in Tennessee

Tennessee is an equitable distribution state, which means that all marital property is divided in a way that is fair and just for both spouses. However, “fair and just” does not always mean an equal distribution. The court considers various factors, including the length of the marriage, the earning capacity of each spouse, the age and health of each spouse, and the contributions each spouse made during the marriage. The court may also consider the presence of separate assets like inheritances.

Tennessee also recognizes what’s called “marital waste” or “dissipation of assets.” Dissipation of assets refers to one spouse’s wasteful or fraudulent use of marital property during the marriage’s breakdown. Such actions can include hiding assets or spending marital funds on affairs or gambling. If the court finds such actions, it will consider those actions when dividing property.

Child Custody in Tennessee

Child custody decisions in Tennessee are made based on the best interests of the child. Tennessee law recognizes both physical and legal custody. Physical custody refers to where the child lives, while legal custody refers to who has the authority to make major decisions about the child’s welfare, such as education and healthcare.

Tennessee law presumes that joint custody is in the best interest of the child. However, this presumption can be rebutted based on evidence that it would not be in the child’s best interest. Joint custody does not necessarily mean a 50/50 time split between parents. Instead, it means that both parents share decision-making power and parenting responsibilities.

In Tennessee, the court considers many factors when deciding what’s in the child’s best interests. These factors include the child’s relationship with each parent, each parent’s ability to provide for the child’s physical and emotional needs, the child’s adjustment to their home, school, and community, and each parent’s conduct and behavior.

Child Support in Tennessee

Child support is designed to ensure that a child’s basic needs are met, including food, clothing, shelter, and medical care. In Tennessee, child support is calculated based on the income shares model, which takes into account each parent’s income and the number of children in the family.

The court uses the Tennessee Child Support Guidelines to determine the appropriate child support amount. These guidelines factor in the number of children, each parent’s income, and expenses like healthcare and childcare costs. Moreover, the court can deviate from the guidelines if it’s in the child’s best interests.

Adoption in Tennessee

Adoption in Tennessee is governed by the Tennessee Code Annotated. Couples, single individuals, and married couples can adopt a child in Tennessee. Before a child can be adopted, their biological parents must relinquish their parental rights. Parents can’t revoke these rights once they’ve signed the relinquishment document, and the court has signed the final adoption decree.

In Tennessee, prospective adoptive parents have to go through a screening process, which may include a home study and background checks. The court has the discretion to deny adoption if it isn’t in the best interests of the child.

Final Thoughts

Tennessee family law is complex and requires a thorough understanding of state laws and legal procedures. Whether you’re contemplating a divorce, need help with a child custody case, or want to adopt a child, getting expert legal advice is essential. The Tennessee government provides valuable resources and information for those seeking legal assistance in family law matters. Make sure to keep yourself updated on any changes and stay informed about your legal rights and responsibilities.

TN family law matters almost always necessitate an experienced and reliable attorney that will be able to assess all claims to be made in family court, as well as supporting documents and the ultimate goals of taking legal action.  While you might be hesitant to involve an attorney in a Tennessee family law matter, it is in your best interests to take consultation with attorneys and determine the extent and limitations of the Tennessee family laws case you intend to make.  Note that the other parties in the TN family law matter will typically introduce an attorney of their own and you will ultimately benefit from the legal advice provided on Tennessee family laws.

TN family law and adoption matters

There is always a benefit in involve an attorney in an adoption matter.  Though you will be working with an adoption agency, an attorney giving the documentation in question a cursory look will ensure that the process can be facilitated without any issues from birth parents, the suitability of your home for adoption and other ambiguous language that might threaten your right to custody.  Tennessee family law can only go so far in protecting your right to adopt and having an adoption attorney on your side to help navigate TN family law is important to ensure that you understand the process in its entirety.

TN family law and divorce

Since Tennessee is a state with contested divorce, a number of TN family law divorce cases will involve accusations of wrongdoing from both parties to the divorce.  This is unfortunate, but the TN family law attorney is essential in protecting your good name, countering the accusations for grounds to divorce and helping to facilitate child custody, support, alimony and division of property arrangements.

There are, of course, alternatives to conventional divorce, the most common being an uncontested divorce, which is allowed under Tennessee family law.  Each party might have an attorney or a single attorney can serve as legal advisor for the arrangements to be made, such as a marriage dissolution agreement under Tennessee family law.  All dissolution and other agreements can be facilitated by an Tennessee family laws attorney and this will save you substantial amounts on legal fees, as well as uncomplicated your Tennessee family law matter.

Finding a Tennessee family laws lawyer

You will not be able to use a statewide lawyer referral service sponsored by the state bar, as you would in other states.  Rather, there are a number of county and regional lawyer referral services that you may use, as long as your research them well, including determining the cost, obligation and other fees involved with the service to find Tennessee family laws lawyers.

When dealing with any Tennessee family law matter, you need to work with the attorney to understand the risks of taking legal action, the limits of your case and the reasonable expectation you can have for the outcome of your legal matter.

All Tennessee family law matters will proceed in the nearest family court and working with your Tennessee family laws attorney from filing to the decision and appeal is highly advisable to ensure that you are organized and able to keep informed on your case related to Tennessee family laws.