Family law broadly applies to the legalities of a number of different domestic relationships, such as marriage, child custody, and adoption. The personal and emotional nature of most family matters can make them challenging for the average person to handle on their own.
Specific state laws govern how these types of cases must be handled in courts, and a person dealing with a family law issue in the greater Memphis area will want to make sure that they have experienced legal representation for assistance throughout the legal process. When a family law case involves a child, it often becomes even more important for a person to achieve the most favorable possible outcome to their situation.
Shannon Jones places particular emphasis on protecting the rights of children. For two decades, he has worked with families in Memphis and the surrounding areas to resolve family matters and achieve favorable outcomes for those he represents. When you need experienced, compassionate representation, turn to Shannon and his team for help. We can discuss your rights and legal options as soon as you call (901) 562-3605 or contact us online to set up a free consultation.
The end of a marriage is one of the most common kinds of family law issues that people deal with in Tennessee. Tennessee allows for both no-fault and fault grounds for divorce.
A no-fault divorce can be obtained on irreconcilable differences. An irreconcilable differences divorce requires an agreement between the parties.
Fault grounds for divorce may include a spouse committing adultery, being convicted of a serious crime, becoming incapable of procreation, or knowingly entering into a second marriage. A person could also file for divorce if the person has not lived in the home with them for two years, if they have an alcohol or drug problem, if they engage in “cruel or inhumane treatment” toward their spouse, or if they have been abandoned by their spouse.
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A legal separation is very similar to a divorce, but the spouses involved remain married and are not authorized to remarry. With a legal separation, a court can still rule on many of the same issues that are dealt with in divorce while the spouses are living apart, such as spousal support, child custody, child support, and distribution of assets, income and expenses.
Some people believe that a legal separation is less costly than a divorce, but this is not the case. A legal separation will often be more complex than a divorce and may likely be more expensive.
Tennessee is an equitable distribution state. This means that there are two categories of property involved in marriage: marital property and separate property.
Marital property refers to all property acquired during the marriage, which is jointly owned by the spouses. Separate property applies to property that a spouse acquired before marriage or through gifts or inheritances.
Marital property is distributed according to the provisions of Tennessee Code § 36-4-121(c). It is essential to understand that an equitable distribution of property does not necessarily mean an equal distribution of property, although most courts will undoubtedly strive to create as close as possible to a 50-50 balance.
Separate property is generally awarded to the owner. However, many times separate property may be converted to marital property during the marriage, generally because of the actions of the parties concerning that property. An experienced attorney can help you to protect your interest in separate property.
The term alimony refers to one spouse paying the other spouse financial support, which is why it is sometimes referred to as spousal maintenance. When a spouse does not require alimony or a spouse is unable to pay alimony, the court should generally not require it.
Alimony may be awarded temporarily, while the divorce is pending, through pendente lite support. Pendente lite support is generally based solely upon the need of one party and the ability of the other party to pay. This type of support is very essential to assist a spouse who desperately wants to separate but could not afford to do so without the financial support of the other party, at least temporarily.
Alimony can also be ordered to be paid as a part of the divorce. Alimony can vary, from lump sum payments to monthly installments, and such installments may continue for several years or even continue until death or remarriage. Generally, several factors such as the length of the marriage, the income of each party, the needs of the party receiving alimony and even fault are considered to determine the amount and duration of payments.
Tennessee Code § 36-3-501 establishes that an antenuptial (postnuptial) or prenuptial agreement is binding when the agreement was entered into by spouses “freely, knowledgeably and in good faith and without the exertion of duress or undue influence upon either spouse.” Prenuptial and postnuptial or antenuptial agreements can often provide some important protections if a marriage veers towards divorce.
You can use a prenuptial and postnuptial or antenuptial agreement to protect your assets, avoid liability for a spouse’s debts, or establish tax filing responsibilities. These agreements can also manage banking responsibilities, divide income from a joint business, and also outline treatment of assets acquired during the marriage.
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Tennessee now uses parenting plans in child custody cases, and the primary residential parent (PRP) is the parent who enjoys primary custody of a child. The other parent is referred to as the alternative residential parent (ARP).
The PRP is commonly referred to as the custodial parent while the ARP is usually the non-custodial parent. Final decision-making authority relating to a child’s medical care and education may be jointly shared by both parents or may be relegated to the PRP.
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The Tennessee Department of Human Services oversees the Tennessee Child Support Program. The amount of child support that an ARP will be ordered to pay will depend on many factors, including the income of both parties, the amount of parenting time with the child spent by each parent and the cost of medical insurance, medical expenses and work-related child care.
A court will determine the appropriate amount of child support for a particular case, and it can then be somewhat difficult to modify that court order. In order to receive a modification of an existing child support order, a spouse will have to prove that there has been some “significant variance” in the case, such as at least a 15 percent change in the income of the ARP, a change in the number of children the ARP is responsible for, or a child becoming disabled.
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Guardianship applies to cases in which an adult seeks to handle the legal and financial obligations of a child or some other person unable to handle the matters on their own. A guardian may be the relative of a child who is also awarded custody.
Adoption involves an adult adopting a minor child and enjoying the same rights as a birth parent. Adoption takes away the rights of a child’s birth parents while guardianship does not.
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Part 3 of Chapter 6 in Title 36 of the Tennessee Code is dedicated to visitation in child custody cases. Tennessee Code § 36-6-205(3) defines a child custody determination as “a judgment, decree, or other order of a court providing for the legal custody, physical custody, or visitation with respect to a child,” and this phrase includes a permanent, temporary, initial, and modification order but does not include an order relating to child support or other monetary obligations.
Under Tennessee Code § 36-6-205(15), physical custody is defined as “the physical care and supervision of a child.” Legal custody typically refers to the right of a parent to make educational and medical decisions.
As it relates to custody and visitation, legal and physical custody can be sole or joint. Joint physical custody generally requires equal time, but joint legal custody does not necessarily mean equal time. Parties can share joint legal custody while in reality the child primarily spends most of their time with one parent and spends more limited visitation time with the other parent.
“Custody” has become an obsolete term in Tennessee since the implementation of parenting plans in Tennessee.
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The Tennessee Parenting Plan law (Part 4 of Chapter 6 in Title 36 of the Tennessee Code) came into effect on January 1, 2001, and requires members of divorcing families to work together to decide how to meet the needs of the new family structure best. The Parenting Plan attempts to move away from the concepts of “custody” and “visitation” to emphasize the concept of “parenting responsibilities.”
Creating parenting plans can be challenging for many people. Proposed permanent parenting plans are required to be filed and served at least 45 days before the trial date, and failure to file a parenting plan can lead to another parent’s plan being approved by default.
Today, the use of parenting plans has been extended to custody cases of children born out of wedlock and into most juvenile courts in the state. Parenting Plans are commonly used in the Shelby County Juvenile Court.
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Do you need help with a family law matter in the greater Memphis area? You will want to make sure that you are working with an experienced attorney so you can have the best chance at achieving the most favorable outcome to your case.
Shannon A. Jones has more than two decades of experience handling a wide variety of family law cases. He has the skills and resources necessary to help you protect your children, retain the property that is most important to you, and help you move on to a better, brighter future. Call (901) 562-3605 or contact us online to take advantage of a free consultation with us today.