Parents’ Rights

“A biological parent’s right to the care and custody of his or her child is among the oldest of the judicially recognized liberty interests protected by the Due Process Clauses of the federal and state constitutions.”
— Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 65(2000)

This right also extends to adoptive parents.

I meet with people daily whose parental rights have been placed in jeopardy by divorce, criminal 
charges, and the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services. Many well meaning parents do 
not realize that their right to parent their children is in jeopardy until it is taken away. 
Custody vs. Parental rights - These are two distinctly different subjects. 

Divorce 

In order to file for divorce in Tennessee, you must have been a resident for six months. Divorces may be filed in either the county where the parties resided at separation, where the defendant resides, or where the petitioner resides.

Tennessee courts divide marital property equitably without regard to marital fault. Marital property is all property acquired during the marriage, regardless of whose name is on the title. Property acquired before the marriage or after a legal separation, inheritances and gifts, and pain and suffering awards are considered separate property. A court considers various factors when determining an equitable distribution of marital property. 

A court may award alimony according to the circumstances of the parties. It may be termed rehabilitative alimony, periodic alimony, transitional alimony, or lump sum alimony and is dependent on listed factors in the Tennessee Code. 

UNCONTESTED DIVORCE

This is also known as an “ID” or Irreconcilable Differences divorce. If both parties agree, this option is often faster, cheaper, and less emotionally painful. Beware: If one spouse retains an attorney to fashion a Marital Dissolution Agreement, that attorney represents only that spouse. While the attorney may fashion the agreement based on what both parties request, he or she represents the interest of only the spouse retaining him or her. I have met with many people, who years after divorcing seek to alter child visitation, child support, or divisions of marital property because they were unrepresented in an uncontested divorce. It is important to have your own attorney review any legal documents, particularly Marital Dissolution Agreements before signing. If you have questions, call me. I never charge for an initial consultation.

Legal Separation

Parties who are not ready to divorce can file for a legal separation. The grounds to file a complaint for a legal separation are the same as for a divorce. A court can address child custody, visitation, support, and property issues during legal separation. Parties who are legally separated may ultimately reconcile or may petition the court for a divorce.

CHILD CUSTODY

If minor children of the divorcing parties are involved, the court will approve a Permanent Parenting Plan. A court may award custody to either parent, or to both parents in the case of joint custody or shared parenting based on the best interests of the child, taking several factors into consideration. Child support in Tennessee is based on the Income Shares Model, and the provisions are outlined in the Tennessee child support guidelines.