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Compassionate Family Law Attorneys Serving Nashville Residents

The emotional implications of dissolving a marriage are overwhelming, even without the legal issues that must be considered. The family law lawyers at Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard understand that both aspects are significant for divorcing spouses in the Nashville area and elsewhere in Tennessee. Thus, our attorneys take the time to get to know our clients, listen to their concerns, and answer any legal questions that come up. We serve individuals throughout Davidson and Williamson Counties, including in Brentwood, Franklin, Belle Meade, and Bellevue.

Establishing the Grounds for Divorce

Tennessee law requires that a party seeking a divorce show that there is a sufficient ground for dissolving the marriage. The law sets out a list of possible grounds for divorce, but dissolution may be granted upon a showing of only one of the grounds provided by the statute. The list of grounds includes impotency, adultery, desertion, abandonment and irreconcilable differences, among others.

One of the most common grounds for divorce is irreconcilable differences, which means that the parties differ so significantly on issues, in a manner that will not change, that the marriage is unworkable. A claim of irreconcilable differences may be asserted as the sole ground for divorce, or it may be asserted along with any other statutory reason for divorce. If one of the parties denies that there are irreconcilable differences, a divorce court may not grant the divorce on that ground. Moreover, before granting a petition for divorce based on irreconcilable differences, a Tennessee court must first find that the parties have fulfilled several duties. First, the spouses must have drawn up a written agreement providing for the custody and support of any children of the marriage. Second, the parties must have agreed upon an equitable settlement for any property shared between the couple. The court must determine that all arrangements are equitable for both parties.

To petition for a divorce based upon one of the grounds listed in the Tennessee statute, there is a waiting period that must be satisfied before a hearing on the matter. In the event that a couple has children under the age of 18, the petition or complaint must be filed for at least 90 days before being heard. If there are no children under 18 years of age, the waiting period is 60 days.

Dividing Marital Property

Dividing marital property can be one of the most contentious aspects of any divorce proceeding. Tennessee law sets forth the process for determining an equitable division of property. Marital property is defined as all real and personal property that is acquired by either or both spouses over the course of the marriage.

Marital property is a broad category and includes personal property, income, workers’ compensation benefits, damages recovered in a personal injury action, social security disability proceeds, and related assets. However, there are a number of exclusions from the category of marital property. Property will be considered “separate” if it was owned by one spouse before marriage, including retirement accounts or income earned on property owned prior to marriage. In addition, a gift, bequest, or inheritance acquired by one spouse will be considered separate property, regardless of when it was gifted.

In the event a couple files for legal separation before ultimately divorcing, the issue of property division may be simplified. Upon filing for legal separation, a court may divide at least a portion of marital property and set a point in time at which any property acquired is separate property.

To equitably divide marital property, a court will look at a number of relevant issues. Those factors include the length of the marriage, the age and earning capacity of both parties, the contribution of one party to the education and increased earning power of the other party, each party’s estate at the time of the marriage, and the economic status of each party at the time of property division. A Tennessee court must look at the parties’ actions throughout the duration of the marriage. For example, if one party mishandled funds, the action could be characterized as a failure to preserve marital assets.

Discuss Your Divorce Proceeding with a Franklin Lawyer

If you or someone you love in Franklin or the surrounding area is facing divorce, you should consider contacting the experienced divorce attorneys at Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard. Our legal team uses skill and experience to seek a favorable outcome in your family law proceeding. To speak with a member of our staff, contact us online or call (615) 800-7096.