Divorce is never a good thing, but sometimes it is necessary. Our firm cannot do anything to make it a good thing, but we can make it as easy as possible. We do that by helping you understand the law as it relates to your situation, and we make sure that you get everything you are entitled to. We also avoid unnecessary work. We don't file motions or set hearings just to increase the legal fee. We don't advise you to do things that will not help your situation. Our goal is to help you get through one of life's most difficult times with as little heartache as possible.
From a lawyer's perspective, there are two types of divorces – agreed and contested. We handle both.
If you have everything worked out when you come to our office, we consider that an agreed divorce. Everything worked out means that you and your spouse have agreed on how to divide your property (house, car, debt, furniture, motorcycles, checking account, etc.). If you have children, it means that you have agreed on custody, visitation, and child support.
We can look at your agreement and advise you on the details. We can also explain the possible future consequences of certain aspects of your agreement – things that you may not have thought about.
We then prepare the legal documents needed to dissolve your marriage, then schedule a hearing. Tennessee law requires that you wait a set amount of time between the date your divorce complaint is filed and the date you have your final hearing. That amount of time is 90 days if you have minor children, and 60 days if you don't.
If you and your spouse cannot agree on how to divide your property, or if you cannot agree about custody and visitation of your children, you have a contested divorce. Whether you have been served with a complaint for divorce by your spouse, or you've decided to start the process, we can help. You need to understand your rights and responsibilities; we can explain those.
Here's how the process usually goes:
Meetings with us
The first thing our firm wants to do is understand your problem, and what you want to accomplish. We need a clear understanding of your situation in order to make suggestions and recommendations to help you accomplish your objective. We work with you to develop a plan. Once that is done, we proceed with the legal process.
Filing a Divorce Complaint
The legal process begins with the filing of a document known as a “divorce complaint”. The spouse who files the complaint is called the “Plaintiff”. This document tells the court the reasons a divorce is necessary, how the Plaintiff wants the couple's property divided, and what kind of parenting plan the Plaintiff wants for the couple's children.
Contested divorces take time – generally between 6 months and 2 years – but it is possible to get some immediate help. We do this by filing motions for pendent lite relief – temporary help from the court while the divorce is processing. These motions are usually for things such as temporary spousal support, temporary possession of a vehicle or home, and a temporary parenting plan.
In order to get you everything you need, we must have certain information. You will not have access to all of that information, so we must get it from your spouse. We do this through a process known as “discovery.” This process includes sending written questions to your spouse and asking him/her to provide certain documents such as tax returns, emails, etc.
It might also include depositions – a meeting between you, your attorney, your spouse, his/her attorney, and a court reporter. At this meeting, your attorney will ask your spouse questions which he/she must answer. The court reporter records every word that is spoke and transcribes it into a written document – a transcript. Your spouse's attorney will probably ask you questions at this deposition, too. It is important that you prepare for these, and we will help you do that.
Often, after discovery is completed, divorcing couples are able to come to an agreement. Once both lawyers have a clear picture of the couple's financial situation, and an understanding of each spouse's desire regarding their children, they are able to help their clients settle the divorce without litigation.
Tennessee law requires that all divorcing couples participate in a mediation process before they submit their dispute to a judge. Mediation is conducted by mediator – a lawyer who has received special training and is certified by the Tennessee Supreme Court. Sometimes the couple's dispute can be settled by a mediator, even when settlement negotiation between the spouses' lawyers have failed.
Litigation can be a nerve-racking experience, and good preparation is essential. We will help you get ready for this difficult experience, so that you can go into it with confidence.