Tennessee is an “equitable distribution” state, which means that the judge has the right to distribute marital property fairly, which might not be a 50/50 split. For example, the court may give a stay at home mom more property because her earning potential is lower because she gave up her career to care for the family. If one of the spouses has health problems that reduce their ability to earn money, the court may find it’s fair to award that spouse more property.
1. You May Not Get Half the Property
2. Both Parents Are Obligated to Pay Child Support
Tennessee courts base child support obligations on calculations from the Tennessee Child Support Worksheets that parents must complete. Child support must be paid until a child turns 18, or 19 if the child is still in high school. Parents that fail to pay child support are subject to income withholding, property liens or seizures, interception or revocation of their driver’s license or professional license and contempt of court charges that could result in incarceration. That said, it can be challenging to collect child support from self-employed spouses or unemployed spouses, but an experienced Tennessee divorce attorney can work with you to impute income and collect child support in these cases.
3. The Best Interests of the Child
Tennessee courts base custody decisions on gender-neutral factors using the “best interests of the child” standard. Older children are giving a voice about which parent they prefer, but they cannot make the final decision. Most Tennessee judges prefer to award joint custody, making it a challenge for either parent to obtain sole custody, even if they were the primary caregiver during the marriage. It’s also becoming more common for parents to share residential custody 50/50, with children shuttling between two homes, with bills pending changing the law and making this the norm.
4. You Usually Keep What Is Yours
If you entered the marriage with inheritance and kept it separate throughout the marriage, you are likely to be able to keep it in a divorce. If you commingled it by using it to benefit the marriage by using it to improve the marital home or to pay for educational expenses for the children, it may be considered marital and subject to equitable distribution. Keeping your inheritance separate could also impact the share of what you collect as equitable distribution, especially if it’s a sum larger enough to make you much more wealthy than your spouse.
5. Does Alimony Still Exist?
Alimony still exists in Tennessee, but it’s usually considered a temporary measure and returning to the workforce is expected as soon as possible. The courts use a series of factors to determine if alimony should be awarded, including the earning capacities of both spouses, their responsibilities for children and their health. Permanent alimony is still allowable in Tennessee, but it’s rarely awarded. So, if you’re a stay at home parent, expect to have to sharpen up your skills and get back into the workforce, even if you have young children in your home.
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