Answers to Your Family Law Questions

If this family law FAQ page does not answer your particular questions, we encourage you to call our office in Bartlett to speak with us. Tennessee laws are unique to Tennessee, and you deserve straightforward answers from a local attorney who can provide counsel and advice based on your situation.

At The Law Offices of Jeffrey Jones, we offer consultations weekdays, evenings and weekends to parties considering divorce and other family law issues. We are happy to speak with you and help you make informed decisions throughout the process.

We'll begin with a very common question:

Are All Divorces Contested?

We strive to assist you in obtaining an uncontested divorce, but some cases do not lend themselves to quick or easy settlement. When assets are not substantial, when children are not involved, or when parties can agree upon divisions of property, an uncontested divorce decree is attainable.

However, the risk is that what begins as an uncontested divorce might become contested once negotiations start. Reaching settlements on the division of retirement accounts, debt, real estate and other complex issues can be difficult when the parties fully realize the stakes.

It is important to consult a family law attorney early in the process.

How Does the Court Determine Child Custody?

When determining the custody of a child, the court will consider many factors, including:

  • The relationships between parents and the child
  • The incomes of parents and their ability to provide a stable, safe lifestyle for the child
  • The mental and physical health of each parent
  • The child's lifestyle, including the location of his or her school, activities and more
  • The child's preference, if the child is at least 12 years of age
  • Evidence of physical or emotional abuse of the child or other parent
  • The character of any third party individuals living in the parent's household

The court can interpret each of these factors differently, making it important to establish and demonstrate your ability to provide a stable, healthy and loving home for your child.

How Do You Create a Parenting Plan?

The court will require a permanent parenting plan that meets statutory requirements and includes a detailed list of responsibilities for each parent. Your child custody agreement will not be approved until a parenting plan that meets requirements can be agreed upon.

Your parenting plan, which we will help you create, will include responsibilities for:

  • Legal custody and physical custody
  • Where the child will sleep on weekdays, weekends and holidays
  • Financial support for the child
  • Decisions concerning the child's education, activities, religious practice, health and other development issues
  • Day-to-day parental decision-making
  • Handling parental disagreements

You will be required to attend a parenting education seminar lasting about four hours. You will have the option of creating a temporary parenting plan first, if a permanent plan cannot be agreed upon. A permanent parenting plan will then be mediated.

Our law firm will help you through all stages of securing a parenting plan agreement, including trial, if it is necessary. We will make every good faith effort to help you prepare a parenting plan without the need for litigation. It is critical that you are represented by an attorney throughout the process, as lack of attorney representation is a serious disadvantage.

What Sort of Events May Allow for a Modification of Child Custody Agreements?

Once the court orders or approves a child custody arrangement, the arrangement is deemed to be permanent. However, there are situations that may lead the court to re-examine or modify the arrangement such as:

  • Major life changes: Significant events in the lives of either parent, such as a job loss, change of work hours, a new job or remarriage, may lead the court to restructure the child custody arrangement.
  • Maturation of the child: As the child ages, his or her needs and availability may change and make the original custody arrangement unworkable. A judge may consider modifying the arrangement if it becomes detrimental to the child's schooling or activities.
  • Violations of the order: Should either parent refuse to adhere to the child custody order, the other parent may pursue enforcement or modification of the arrangement.

If you wish to modify a child custody arrangement, you must petition the court to review the order and show or prove a change of circumstances.

How Does Parental Relocation Impact a Child Custody Agreement?

Parents wishing to relocate must give written notice to the other parent 60 days in advance of moving. The notice must include a statement of the intent to relocate, the address of the new home and the reasons behind the relocation.

The nonrelocating parent may contest the relocation, or may seek to alter the custody arrangement to ensure that each parent is allowed to play a role in the child's life.

Am I Entitled to Alimony?

There are a number of factors that determine whether you are entitled to alimony. The short answer to the question is no, unless you assert your rights.

It is in your best interest to make a case for yourself if you need spousal support. The court calculates the need for alimony based on the overall property division, income earning power and education of each spouse, nonmarital assets of each spouse and other factors. However, going to the negotiating table and to court with a strong case for yourself will maximize the alimony that you deserve.

Can You Modify Alimony Payments?

Alimony may be modified, depending on which type of alimony was awarded (i.e., alimony in solido, alimony in futuro, rehabilitative alimony or transitional alimony). It can be modified if one party has a substantial change of circumstance that makes alimony unnecessary or no longer affordable. It can also be modified or stopped if the receiving party begins living with a third party, or upon death or remarriage.

What Is Marital Property?

Marital property is generally all assets and debts acquired during marriage by both parties. It includes real estate and bank accounts; retirement accounts such as 401(k), IRA and pension plans; business assets; real property such as cars, boats, gun collections and jewelry; and more.

Nonmarital property is defined as property acquired prior to marriage or acquired by gift or inheritance, but nonmarital property may become marital property if:

  • Both spouses contributed to the appreciation or preservation of nonmarital property
  • There is evidence of intent to convert it to marital property
  • It was commingled with marital property

Can You Modify Child Support Payments?

Child support payments may be modified if there are substantial changes of circumstances that affect either parent or the child. It is best to consult a lawyer based on your unique situation.

A petition must be filed with the court in a timely manner to seek a modification or request of stay of payments. The court will consider your hardships and other reasons, but a ruling will be made in the best interests of the child.

Modifications are possible if you have lost your job, become seriously ill or experienced a substantial reduction of income for another reason. If one parent experiences a substantial increase of income, child support might be modified. In most cases, child support payments end when the child reaches the age of 18 unless the child is still in high school or the parents agreed to additional support beyond that age.

Do You Have More Questions?

Schedule a consultation with us today. We offer appointments at your convenience, days, evenings and weekends. Please call our office at 901-410-5751 or toll free at 800-863-2561 to schedule a one-on-one meeting. We are also responsive to online inquiries.