Tennessee Example Parenting Plan

Here is an example of a Tennessee Permanent Parenting Plan which is used for both divorce and custody cases in Tennessee.  Tennessee Blank Parenting Plan

If you are doing a divorce or custody case in Tennessee, you need to work through the Parenting Plan and create a Plan that is in the best interest of your children.

At Invisible Lawyer, a lawyer is willing to work the Tennessee Parenting Plan with you.

Tennessee Marital Dissolution Agreement (MDA) Revocation

In Tennessee, you might have signed a marital dissolution agreement (MDA), but have decided you don’t want to get divorced on the terms in the MDA.  You are probably going to want to stop the uncontested divorce and may want to revoke or rescind your agreement to get divorced. This is something that you can do prior to the divorce is finalized by the Judge. After the divorce is finalized, it becomes very difficult to overturn a MDA.  See Beem v. Beem.

Some of the of the reasons this can happen:
1. you have buyer’s remorse.
2. you didn’t have an attorney and you figured out that you are getting messed over
3. you decided you didn’t want to get divorced
4. you found out your spouse is lying and you want to rework the deal

One way or another, revoking the MDA can be done even if you signed the dang thing. If you are revoking the MDA, you really need an attorney. The process is to immediately inform the court that you no longer agree to get divorce because if you don’t the other side may use your MDA to get divorced.  Generally, your attorney will file a notice with the court that you are rescinding your agreement or revoking the MDA.

Once you do this, you are almost certainly going to send the divorce contested.  It is going to make the other side made and probably cost you more money.  Sometimes this is worth it, but don’t make the decision to revoke your MDA haphazardly.

Now, the signed MDA may be used against you later at the final hearing. The other side can use your agreement as evidence against you. They will probably file a Motion to Enforce the MDA, which means that they will ask the court to enforce the MDA regardless of you not wanting the divorce to proceed. This generally won’t happen because a Tennessee divorce is going to require your agreement, unless the other side has been hurt by your signing the MDA.  Either way, get ready for a fight.  At Phillips Law, PLLC, we are ready to help you with that fight.

Motion for Support

One powerful way to turn the tables in a Tennessee Divorce is to file a Motion for Support Pendente Lite. Essentially, this is a request for the judge in a divorce to award one side or the other financial support, temporarily, while the parties await the discovery process and for a final hearing.

The outcome of this hearing can be determinative of how fast the divorce will proceed. If one side or the other gets an upper hand and receives a great deal of financial support it can end their incentive to move with any speed to the final hearing.

If you are having a hard time negotiating an uncontested divorce with your spouse and they make more money than you, you might want to consider filing a motion for support.

You can get divorced while deployed

Our law firm, Phillips Law, PLLC, has many clients who are either in the military or who are spouses to military members.  Since 911, the military has been operating at a very high OPTEMPO.  This means almost all of our military clients will experience a deployment to Southeast Asia at some point in their careers.  This also means that many of our clients who have deployed repeatedly will go through at least one divorce.

There is a myth among many military lawyers and military members that soldiers cannot get divorced while they are deployed.  In Tennessee this is not true.  We frequently get our clients divorced when one of the parties is deployed.

In order to get the divorce while deployed, a couple of things must happen.  One, the divorce will have to be uncontested.  This means that the two sides will have to agree on a Marital Dissolution Agreement that splits all of the marital property. Two, if they have kids, they will have to have a parenting plan completed, with the appropriate child support under the Tennessee Child Support Guidelines.  If the two parties agree to all of this, a civilian lawyer can file the paperwork as an irreconcilable divorce and have the couple divorced in about 90 days.

Although some Tennessee Counties require testimony for an uncontested divorce, where the parties come in and testify that they will be unable to reconcile, this testimony can normally be accomplished by the servicemember through the use of interrogatories.  Interrogatories are a series of sworn written question and answers that are presented to the court.  The judge has the ability to accept this interrogatories instead of using live testimony.

The one issue that can develop is that getting the paperwork back and forth to the deployed soldier can add additional time to the entire process.  With the use of email, this can keep things going at a quick clip.  Generally, the mail from Iraq takes seven to ten days to get here if our clients need to mail us sworn originals.

Lawyers and servicemembers do need to be careful about the timing of filing for divorce.  The Servicemember is protected from many aspects of divorce under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.  The SCRA protects soldiers from final judgement while they are deployed, although many temporary hearings are authorized despite their deployment.  This is why the soldier must be careful not to “make an appearance” before the court.  This can be done by filing the original complaint for divorce or by filing a response or counter-complaint.  Once the soldier is in front of the judge, he may have to pay child support or spousal support despite being deployed.

For contested divorces, where there must be a trial, much of the work of divorce, the discovery aspects can be completed while the soldier is in Iraq.  Many of my special forces clients go and come back throughout the pendency of the divorce.  But, for soldiers who are not able to participate in a contested divorce, they will probably be forced to sit and wait for redeployment.

Divorce Deposition Overview with 15 hints

I am an attorney that practices law in Middle Tennessee. www.bestclarksvillelawyer.com.

In a divorce, one of the tools for discovery is the use of depositions.  When a lawyer deposes a witness, he or she is calling the witness to testify in the presence of a court reporter.  The witness is sworn in and is required to answer truthfully under oath.  The testimony given under oath can later be transcribed by the court reporter and turned into a written, word for word, document that can be used to later impeach the witness or for entry as evidence. If the case goes to trial and your testimony at trial differs from your deposition testimony, the deposition can be used by opposing counsel to cross-examine you.  Any part of your deposition or your spouse’s deposition can be read by opposing counsel at the final hearing.  Careful what you say. The court reporter is generally pretty pricey and can be a major expense depending on how long the deposition runs.

Many lawyers feel that in a simple divorce a deposition is too costly for its effectiveness.  Many times the lawyer can get most of the same information from the use of interrogatories or by calling other witnesses to impeach the opposing party.  When the client does not have a lot of money for attorney fees or for the court reporter, the lawyer may want to forego deposing the opposing party.

Generally, the deposition will be fairly anti-climactic.  For the most part, the lawyer will be trying to get the opposing party to lock in their answer.  This prevents some lying on the stand later at trial.  This is one of the main reasons that I personally like to do depositions in most of my cases.  The deposition allows me to get a good look at the others sides position for trial.  Although, obviously, my own deposition questions will key the other side to my defenses, themes and strategies.  For me, the benefits will outweigh most of the negatives.

The more issues in a divorce, the more likely that  you will need to have a deposition.

The deposition will start with the questioning lawyer running through a set of questions to determining the deposed parties ability to answer questions.  These will be standard questions related to truthfulness and ability to answer truthfully.

Then, the meat of the deposition will begin. Here are some helpful hints to remember prior to the deposition.

1. Review your case with your attorney prior to the deposition.  Review any case notes you have.

2. While being deposed, don’t worry if your attorney doesn’t object very much.  This is discovery and most of what is asked will be relevant and you will have to answer the questions.

3.  After the deposition, review the transcript and make corrections.

4.  Don’t be disappointed if your attorney does not ask questions.  The deposition is for the other side.  Remember, they want to catch you in a lie, nail down the facts and stick you to your statements.

5.  Your deposition will also help both sides for settlement purposes.

6. Remember if your facts or story changes later at trial, the other side is going to use the deposition against you.

7.  Tell the truth

8. Give straightforward answers.

9. Don’t evaluate your answers for trial.

10. Listen carefully and answer carefully.

11.  Take your time, remember you can tell your attorney you need a break or you can stop the deposition to talk to your attorney

12.  Speak deliberately and clearly for the record

13. Don’t guess and keep your testimony limited

14.  Do not joke with the other attorney, lose your temper or spar with the other attorney

15.  Dress appropriately in casual business dress.

Online Divorce Packets in Tennessee

I am an attorney that practices law in Middle Tennessee. www.bestclarksvillelawyer.com.  I start every blog on divorce with this disclaimer: Nothing in this blog constitutes establishing an attorney-client relationship.  Also, this blog is general advice and commentary and should not be construed as a substitute for either the need for getting specific advice from a lawyer or from hiring a lawyer.  In Tennessee, most divorces are complex and require the hiring of a lawyer.

From my initial disclaimer, you can probably tell that I am generally pretty wary of recommending that people do their own divorces in Tennessee.  Tennessee is a state that generally has fairly complex divorce proceedings procedurally. However, the Tennessee Supreme Court has a website and approved forms for those seeking to file their own divorce.  Check it out by clicking this link.

Some states, usually West Coast states, have check the block divorces.  This means that the average person who wants to get a divorce can get standard forms from the court in their state and fill out the forms, turn them in and get an uncontested divorce.  With a filing fee, and agreement between the parties, they generally do not need a lawyer and can get through the entire process, quickly and easily.

That is generally not the case in Tennessee.  The divorce process starts with a complaint for divorce.   The complaint is a document that had specific requirements set out by Tennessee Statue and to properly fill out the complaint requires either knowledge of the law or help from an online service.  Obviously, my recommendation is to use a lawyer, but when finances become a problem or the divorce is very simple, the parties my want to try and file the divorce pro se.

A pro se divorce is a divorce where the parties do the divorce themselves.  Generally, this is an uncontested divorce where the parties agree to the terms of the divorce.  As I have stated prior to this, an uncontested divorce requires a marital dissolution agreement, which is an agreement on how to divide marital property.  If there are children involved, the parties need to work out a parenting plan, which includes a schedule for visitation, designation of primary residential custodian, and child support.

In order to do the MDA and parenting plan without the help of the lawyer, the parties need to have some understanding of what a parenting plan and MDA look like.  As divorces become more expensive, online divorce services that create divorce packets for people will become much more prolific as time goes on.

The problem in Tennessee is that in order to get by a judge and have him grant an uncontested divorce it must meet his or her specific requirements.  Essentially, in Tennessee, the problem is that from County to County and Judge to Judge, the requirements for an uncontested divorce can be different.  In some counties, in order to get divorced, the parties have to testify as to grounds for divorce.  In other counties, there needs to be a Notice of Hearing to set the final hearing, but then the final decree is signed behind closed doors.  Some judges will allow a deviation in the child support guidelines and others will not.  Some judges are extremely lenient towards the pro se litigant, others are not.

This diversity in Counties, Courts and Judges creates a mine field when a person attempts to go online and buy a generic online divorce packet.  So, if you decide you are going to try to do your divorce by yourself, be very careful.  Call the local court clerk and see if they will give some advice on what exactly you will need to do.

The major pitfall that happens here in Montgomery County on a pro se divorce is that the parties do not know how to do the child support calculation.  They will file all of the paperwork and forget to do a child support worksheet or they will make an agreement that does not include child support.

The Divorce Trial

I am an attorney that practices law in Middle Tennessee. www.bestclarksvillelawyer.com.  I start every blog on divorce with this disclaimer: Nothing in this blog constitutes establishing an attorney-client relationship.  Also, this blog is general advice and commentary and should not be construed as a substitute for either the need for getting specific advice from a lawyer or from hiring a lawyer.  In Tennessee, divorces are complex and require the hiring of a lawyer.

The culmination of a contested divorce is the trial itself.  Many times the attorney and the client have worked for months and months to get ready for the trial.  Discovery has been conducted.  The parties have usually exchanged interrogatories and done depositions.  Mediation has failed. Motions have long since angered both parties.

The trial itself is both the fulfillment and the most anti-climatic moment for most of my clients.

The client for the most part is expecting the trial to be a cathartic moment when all the hurts, shattered dreams, and wrongs will be righted and judged.  Unfortunately, at least in Middle Tennessee, this is not what happens at the trial.

The Divorce Trial Judge performs primarily and economic function.  That function is to divide the the marital property that the couple has acquired throughout the time that the couple has been married.  Also, the judge must determine, through the creation of a permanent parenting plan, how to create a visitation plan, with child support, that is in the best interest of the children. Finally, in a contested divorce, the Judge must determine the relative fault of the parties.  Generally, fault seems to be more of an after-thought, than the primary purpose of the divorce trial.

These two main functions, economic division and child division, are fairly mundane decisions.  For the parties, generally, the economics are the least of their worries.  Granted this might not be the case for those that are financially well off, but for most parties to a divorce, they can live with whatever the judge determines.

The issues with the children are generally more explosive, but at the same time, the real question is less about who done who wrong, than it is about what is good for the kids.  So, who slept with whom is not as relevant as who gets the kids to the bus on time.  I once heard a judge say, “she may be a slut, but she takes good care of the kids.”  Of course, this same mother ended up getting custody.

So, for the clients who want to finger point, it is sometimes hard to hear the advice of their lawyer while prepping for trial.  I generally prep my clients by telling them that we won’t spend a lot of time talking about fault.  Unless it is relevant to property division, say alimony and attorney fees, or the kids are being adversely effected by the adultery or inappropriate marital conduct, we are not going to do anything more than prove that the parties need to be divorced.  The rest of the time, the client will have to testify to property division and what is in the best interest of the children.

That’s a bummer when you want to talk about how you been done wrong, but it is the best way to get what you want out of the judge.  I find the best revenge for all those wrongs is taking money and getting the best visitation plan possible.

Divorce Defaults

I am an attorney that practices law in Middle Tennessee. www.jamesphillipslaw.com.  If you need self-help legal, go to invisiblelawyer.com.

Many of my clients are very concerned about the length of time that it takes to get a default judgment. They see this as the quickest and easiest ways to get rid of a troublesome spouse.  In a divorce, a complaint is filed with the court.  After the complaint is filed, the complaint must be “served” on the defendant spouse.  This can be accomplished in a variety of ways, but basically what this means is that the complaint for divorce must reach the hands of the defendant.  Once the defendant has the complaint, they have thirty days to respond or they are subject to a default judgment.

The default judgment can be both a good and bad thing.  In Tennessee, default judgments are looked upon by the Courts with disfavor.  This means the preferred method of resolving cases is that they are either settled through agreement by the parties or they are litigated in front of a judge who will render a final decision.  Because of this, many default judgments are thrown out by the opposing party getting an attorney and filing a rule 59 or rule 60 motion to set the final decree aside.

A default judgment in my county, Montgomery County, is a pretty easy thing to get.  If the defendant does not show up, the court has a hearing where the plaintiff, my client, will testify to the basic correctness of the complaint and establish fault.  The plaintiff will bring two witnesses who testify to the truth-fullness of character of my client and after they ask the court for what they want and establish the fault, the hearing is over and the divorce is granted.

This may not go so well if the other party shows up to contest the default.  Although I have seen judges go forward and grant the default judgment even if the opposing party arrives at the hearing, generally, they will stop the default and give the opposing party a week or so to file their response to the original complaint.   If an attorney is hired, they can whip up a response to a complaint in just a few minutes to defeat the default.

Also, when I am getting a default judgment for my client, I always suggest that they not try to bury the other party.  I will usually suggest that the Parenting Plan is fair and would not seem overly coercive.  This is because even in a default judgment the Judge has a requirement to keep the best interest of the children in the forefront.  Also, any request for alimony or a complete grant of all property can be looked upon with disfavor from the Judge.  The judge may not feel that they can make this kind of ruling without the other party being there.

All in all, a default can be a quick and efficient way to get a final decree in a Tennessee divorce.  The problem is that they are still subject to attack later.  They can be defeated at a hearing on the cause and they do not grant the complainaint everything they might otherwise get at a contested divorce trial.

Divorce in Tennessee

I am an attorney that practices law in Middle Tennessee. www.jamesphillipslaw.com.  I start every blog on divorce with this disclaimer: Nothing in this blog constitutes establishing an attorney-client relationship.  Also, this blog is general advice and commentary and should not be construed as a substitute for either the need for getting specific advice from a lawyer or from hiring a lawyer.  In Tennessee, Divorces are complex and require the hiring of a lawyer.

There are two types of divorce in Tennessee.  Essentially, the common usage is “uncontested” and “contested” divorces.  What this really means is this: (1) an uncontested divorce is based on irreconciliable divorces, which essentially means the parties agree that they will no longer be able to stay married; and (2) a contested divorce is based on fault based grounds, which means that somebody done somebody wrong.

Ok, what does this really mean? 

An uncontested divorce is basically a divorce by agreement.  The essential requirement for an uncontested divorce is that the parties (husband and wife) have an ability to agree on the division of their stuff.  Basically, they have to split money, accounts, cars, retirement, houses, alimony, taxes.  Everything that the parties have acquired together; operative word together, during the time they have married is up for grabs and can be equitably divided.  Now, the division of marital property has some caveats.  If a party owned something before the marriage, it may not be divisible because it is separate property.

Once the parties can has out an agreement, they will then document this agreement in the form of a Marital Dissolution Agreement (MDA).  This agreement has some specific requirements and generally must comply with the rules established by each local court in each Tennessee County.

If children are involved, then for the divorce to be uncontested, the parents will have to agree on a parenting plan.  In Tennessee, a parenting plan consists of several things: a day to day schedule for visitation, a holiday schedule (major holidays, summer, spring, fall and winter break), a determination of financial requirements through child support, life insurance and health care, and also a division of the tax credit.  The parenting plan is usually very specific and is designed for the time when the parents may have a dispute.  The parenting plan is a guide to fall back on, but does not necessarilly have to be the rule.

Once these two documents are completed and the statutory waiting period has ended, the parties can be divorced.  This is done through a final decree and notice of hearing.

The main thing to remember is that an uncontested divorce requires the agreement of the parties.

If the parties can’t agree, the divorce becomes contested.  This is usually a knock down drag out fight.  The pattern in a contested divorce normally involves these parts: (1) filing of a contested complaint, (2) motions involving support, paternity, possession of the home, custody etc, (3) mediation, (4) interrogatories, (4) depositions, (5) trial preparation, (5) trial brief and (6) trial.  Some time there will also be a requirement for a forensic accounting if there is a dispute over where all the money has gone.

Generally, the filing of the divorce complaint begins the process.  In a contested divorce fault-based grounds will be alleged and the other party will need to be served the paperwork.  What this means is that a process server, postal worker or sherrif will need to get the paperwork into the other party’s hands.  Once this is done, they have thirty days to respond to the paperwork.  After thirty days, if there is not response, the filing party may fiile a motion for default. 

If the party responds with an answer and “counter-complaint,” then the original filing party must file an answer to the new filings.  At this point, generally it is on like donkey-kong.

Most of the the time the next thing that happens is the filing of motions.  These are requests to the court for relief.  The requests are asking for the Court to do something of a temporary nature to set the terms of how the couple is to live until the final decree.  For example, many times one party or the other will file a Motion to Set Support. This can be in the form of Alimony or Child Support or Both. Once the Court orders support, the order will normally last until the final hearing and is not meant to be ongoing beyond that.

Mediation is also becoming a necessity.  Mediation is designed to get the parties to resolve the divorce through the use of an neutral attorney or a Rule 31 mediator.  Mediation can be done with or without the participation of the party’s attorney.  Generally, what takes place is that the parties sit down in one room and try to hash out the terms of the divorce.  The goal here, once again, is to create a Marital Dissolution Agreement and Parenting Plan (see uncontested divorce).  If the party’s can’t come up with a complete agreement, many times it is helpful if they just agree on parts of the divorce.

Interrogatories are also normally filed.  These are written questions to the other side that are required to be answered as part of the discovery.  They are sworn to and must be answered truthfully.  As part of the interrogatories, there is a request for production of documents.  This also each side to flesh out their file and get anything that they may need for trial.

After the interrogatories are returned, the lawyers may want to schedule depositions.  Depositions are conducted with a court-reporter present.  This is a question and answer session where the lawyer can ask questions of your spouse and have the answers recorded.  The answers are under oath and lying in a depostion is perjury.  The court reporter is expensive and charges for each page of the transcript, so sometimes clients who don’t have a lot of money to spend on a divorce may want to forgo the depositions unless they believe they are a vital part of the discovery proceedings.

Trial preparation will require preparation of witnesses, filing of trial briefs, preparation of evidence for the court and preparation of the client.  This is done after the evidence is gathered through discovery and will follow the rules of the local court.

A divorce trial can be disappointing for the client.  Many times clients are more concerned with vindication and justice than they are with the distribution of their assets.  The judge is generally less interested in sorting out the fault than he or she is in splitting the parties’ stuff and creating a parenting plan that is in the best interest of the child.

What the judge wants is what is going to happen in trial, so for the most part, the lawyers will spend a limited amount of time having clients and witnesses testify about adultery, abuse, etc.  The real crux of the argument will be on issues such as equitable division of property, custody of the kids, alimony, attorney fees, and the granting of the divorce.

Once the judge rules, the Court will put out an order that outlines all of the issues that were brought up in the final hearing.  This order becomes final and the parties are divorced.

If one side or the other disagrees with the ruling, the have a limited amounted of time to appeal and may go to the next higher court to ask that court to grant relief.

Also, later on down the line, as things change, one party or the other may want to reopen the divorce to have the judge review some or all of the determinations.

In my experience, a contested divorce should never be handled pro se in Tennessee.  Pro se is when a client represents themselves.  There are just too many issues and a divorce in Tennessee can be too complex for a client to represent themselves.  They will be at a serious disadvantage in front of the judge.

I hope this helps.  If you need an appointment, www.jamesphillipslaw.com.