Family Law FAQs

Q: How do I get a divorce and how long does the process take?

A: Either you or your spouse must file a Petition for Divorce with the court to initiate divorce proceedings. Under Tennessee Code, Sections 36-4-101 and 36-4-103, this petition must explain the grounds for divorce, which can either be No-Fault (such as irreconcilable differences) or Fault (such as adultery, abuse, or drug addiction). Even if you and your spouse both agree on the terms of the divorce, a judge must enter a decree to make the divorce final. It is hard to predict how long any particular divorce will take; it depends on how quickly and easily you and your spouse can come to an agreement, the court's schedule, and how complicated your particular case is.

Q: Will I have to pay my ex-spouse support after our divorce?

A: In Tennessee, the court can order alimony payments under Code Section 36-5-121 according to the "nature of the case and the circumstances of the parties." The court can order a specific amount to be paid in monthly, semimonthly, or weekly installments. The court can also order various kinds of temporary support, to be paid either in a lump sum or in installments. Traditional alimony ends upon the death or remarriage of the recipient. We strongly advise you seek the counsel of experienced divorce attorneys regarding your financial obligations both during divorce proceedings and after the finalization of your divorce.

Q: How will our property be divided after divorce?

A: Tennessee follows traditional common laws for property division. Under Section 36-4-121 of the Tennessee Code, judges will divide "marital property" - that is, property acquired by either or both spouses during marriage - in a manner it deems equitable. Once the judge enters the decree dividing the property, any property acquired after that is considered separate. Of course, the division of property is often highly complicated and often subject to dispute. An experienced divorce attorney will examine your situation and protect your interest in your property.

Q: What are pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements?

A: Parties draft pre-nuptial agreements before getting married, and post-nuptial agreements any time after marriage. Both types of agreements provide for the distribution of property, assets, and debt in the event of a divorce. We strongly recommend that you consult an experienced divorce lawyer to assist in drafting either pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreements. These agreements provide protection of your legal rights, property interests, and assets in the event of a divorce.

Q: How is paternity established?

A: Paternity is established through a DNA genetic test. Either both parties agree to the test, or in some cases, Tennessee Code Section 36-2-305 allows a judge to order a test. Section 36-2-304 defines situations where a man is presumed to be a child's father. If the baby is born during a marriage or is born within 300 days of a divorce, the man is presumed to be the child's father. If a man wants to establish paternity or establish that he is not a child's father, he can file a complaint to establish parentage. Both the child and his or her mother can also file a complaint to establish parentage. The laws regarding paternity in Tennessee are quite complex. We advise you to consult attorneys who are experienced in paternity issues to ensure your rights are protected.