Tennessee Family Law Questions & Answers

Tennessee Family Law Questions & Answers is a daily show dedicated to answering questions often asked by family law consumers to family law attorneys. The show covers a wide range of Tennessee family law subjects, from divorce to adoption and every thing in between.
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Tennessee Family Law Questions & Answers

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Now displaying: July, 2016

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Jul 25, 2016

No one really likes to pay child support.  It is, perhaps, one of the most contentious issues in cases involving children.  In my practice, I have discovered several reasons for this.  

First, when child support is paid, it is paid to the other parent.  The greater the animosity between the parents, the more difficult it is to make those payment.  It creates the illusion that the person paying the child support is actually paying the money for the benefit of the other parent and not the children.  

In Tennessee we have a comprehensive set of guidelines used to determine the amount of child support that will be paid.  Based upon the guidelines, the appropriate figures are inserted into Tennessee’s Child Support Worksheet by using a child support calculator supplied by the state. The result is a dollar amount that is used as child support.  

The following are the five factors that go into the child support formula in Tennessee:

  • The income of each parent
  • The amount of time each parent spends with the child
  • The amount paid for health insurance and recurring medical expenses
  • Childcare expenses
  • Credit for other children

As always, it is important to seek out a professional for help with issues involving child support.  It is also important to understand and be educated in the way child support is calculated in Tennessee.


Tennessee Child Support Guidelines

Tennessee Child Support Calculator

Blog Post

Jul 21, 2016

A good understanding of the court system is essential for both attorneys and for consumers of the judicial system.  Additionally, it is important to know which courts in your county have jurisdiction over which type of cases. 

In this episode, we discuss the structure of Tennessee’s judicial system.


Understanding Your Court System

Tennessee Judicial District Map

Blog Post

Jul 19, 2016

In Tennessee, courts are required to equitably divide marital property between the parties in a divorce.  The court will usually attempt to determine the value of all marital property and then attempt to determine the proper division of that property.  Tennessee is a dual property state as opposed to an all property state.  In a dual property state, the court may only divide property this is considered marital property. 

Once the marital property is identified, the court will determine the division of the property based on eleven factors set forth in the divorce statutes.  In the vast majority of divorce cases, the equitable division of marital property between the parties is a simple process of dividing the property in half.  In other words, in most cases the court will make a 50/50 division between the parties.  Nonetheless, there are situations where the court will be forced to consider the equities and make other than an equal division of the property.

Blog Post


Jul 18, 2016

In most families, grandparents play a significant role in the lives of grandchildren.  I have some great memories spending time with my grandparents growing up in Nashville.  I was lucky to have both sets of grandparents until I was well into my twenties.  In some families, however, grandparents are at odds with the parents and the relationship between the grandparents and the grandchildren is affected.  When this happens, the grandparents may be required to resort to the courts in order to spend time with their grandchildren. 

As a general rule, parents have the right to parent their children as they see fit.  This includes the right to decide with whom the children will associate.  The right to parent one’s children is founded on the right to privacy contained in the United States Constitution.  Before the court can abridge that right, it must be shown that the failure to do so would result in severe emotional harm to the children.

In Tennessee, grandparents have a right to visit with their unmarried minor grandchildren, but only if the parents refuse to allow grandparent visitation and that refusal results in severe emotional harm to the children. 

The laws regarding grandparent visitation are complicated.  If you are considering filing a grandparent visitation case, it is imperative to hire an attorney knowledgeable in the area of grandparent visitation rights.

Blog Post

Jul 17, 2016

Adultery is defined as voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and someone not the spouse of that married person.  In Tennessee, adultery can be proven by circumstantial evidence as well as by direct evidence. 

There are several defenses to adultery.  The first is called recrimination and occurs when the spouse alleging adultery has also committed adultery.  The second defense is referred to as condonation.  The defense of condonation occurs when the innocent spouse, knowing of the adulterous conduct, takes the guilty spouse back and engages in intercourse.  The final defense is connivance.  This defense is based upon the knowledge and acquiescence by the innocent spouse in the adulterous spouses’ conduct.

There are several things to keep in mind when it comes to adultery in divorce.  First, the adulterous conduct of a parent cannot form the basis of a denial of parenting time.  In other words, unless the conduct directly affects the children, it cannot be used by the court when fashioning a custody arrangement.  Second, having sexual intercourse with someone other than your spouse after separation is still adultery.  Third, adultery has no bearing on the division of property in a divorce case.

Adultery is just one of sixteen grounds for divorce in Tennessee.  However, it is the ground that causes the most anger and resentment.  From a purely legal standpoint, adultery is no different than any other of the fault based grounds for divorce.  Keeping that in mind will hopefully help quail the emotions that seem to run high in cases involving adultery. 

Blog Post


Jul 16, 2016

Alimony is available in Tennessee in appropriate divorce and legal separation cases.  A number of factors go into determining an award of alimony.  The most important factor is the need of the spouse seeking alimony and the ability of the other spouse to pay the alimony.

There are four types of alimony in Tennessee.  

  • Alimony in futuro, also referred to as periodic alimony
  • Rehabilitative alimony
  • Transitional alimony
  • Alimony in solido, also called lump sum alimony

There are a number of factors that go into an alimony decision.  When facing a case involving alimony, make sure you seek the advice of an experienced Tennessee family law attorney.


Blog Post

Jul 15, 2016

In Tennessee, child support is based in part on the relative incomes of the parents.  But what happens if one of the parents is not working up to their potential?  What if one of the parents quits a lucrative job and takes a lesser paying job, or perhaps just quits working altogether?

If this episode, we discuss how a court determines whether a parent is underemployed and what steps the court will take to insure that parent continues to support the child. 


Tennessee Child Support Calculator 

Tennessee Child Support Guidelines 

Tennessee Child Support Handbook 

Blog Post


Jul 14, 2016

In Tennessee, one out every three children are born to unwed parents.  There are several ways to establish paternity of a child.  First, the mother and father can both sign a form called a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity.  Second, a paternity action can be filed in court.  The voluntary acknowledgment of paternity involves no court action and is usually accomplished in the hospital just after the birth of the child.  There is no fee for submitting the voluntary acknowledgment of paternity, provided the form is filled out, signed and filed with the proper state agency prior to the child’s first birthday.  The form can be submitted after the child’s first birthday through the date the child turns nineteen, but there is a small fee involved.

The form requires the acknowledgment of both the mother and the father that the father is the natural father of the child.  Certain information such as the social security numbers, ages and addresses of both parents must be provided on the form, and the form must be signed before a notary public.  The form allows the child to carry the last name of the father if both parents can agree.  Otherwise, the child will carry the last name of the mother.

If one or both of the parents are under eighteen years of age, the form must also be signed by the parent or legal guardian of the new parent.  If the mother is married to someone else at the time of conception, while she is pregnant, or at the time she gives birth, the form cannot be used and the mother’s husband is presumed to be the father.  In that case, the husband will be listed as the father on the child’s birth certificate.


Video of Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity Program in Tennessee

Establishing Paternity Brochure


Paternity Guide for Dads

Paternity Guide for Moms

Blog Post

Jul 13, 2016

Courts will not change a child’s last name unless the change promotes the child’s best interest.  When considering the child’s best interest, the following factors must be used by the court:

  • The child's preference
  • The change's potential effect on the child's relationship with each parent
  • The length of time the child has had its present name
  • The degree of community respect associated with the present and proposed name
  • The difficulty, harassment, or embarrassment that the child may experience from bearing either its present or its proposed name

Both parents can agree to the change of the child’s last name.  In such a case, the name will usually be changed by the court without having to present any evidence.  However, where no agreement can be reached, the parent seeking to change the child's last name has the burden of proving that the change will further the child's best interests.  Since the birth certificate of a child born to an unmarried mother reflects that the child’s last name is that of the mother, that person is usually the father. 

The only way to effect a change in the child’s last name from the name as it appears on the birth certificate, is by court order.

If you desire to have the name of your child changed to the last name of the father, or if you do not want to have your child’s last name changed, it is important to be prepared to present evidence to the court to support your position.

Blog Post


Jul 11, 2016

In Tennessee, the parent with the majority of the parenting time is always designated as the primary residential parent.  But what happens when both parents have equal parenting time with the children?  Who is the primary residential parent?

The parenting plan in Tennessee states that the designation of primary residential parent is SOLELY for purposes of any other applicable state and federal laws. If the parents are listed in Section II of the parenting plan as joint decision-makers, then, for purposes of obtaining health or other insurance, they shall be considered to be joint custodians. THE DESIGNATION DOES NOT AFFECT EITHER PARENT’S RIGHTS OR RESPONSIBILITIES UNDER THIS PARENTING PLAN.

Being named the primary residential parent has little or no meaning.  The most important factor to keep in mind in all custody cases is the best interest of the children.  Keeping that concept front and center in all cases involving children will go a long way to minimize the negative effects of divorce on your children.

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