Family Law

Family law is an umbrella term which covers certain types of cases related to our family lives. For example, marriage, divorce, annulment, separation, adoption, domestic violence, paternity, child support, child custody, and many other cases may fall under the category of family law. Every state has a different view and a different set of laws relating to these issues. Read on to learn more about family law in Tennessee.

Marriage

The basic requirements for a valid marriage in Tennessee are (1) a license, and (2) a ceremony performed by a person who may solemnize a marriage under the law. Tennessee does not require a medical examination or a blood test for the issuance of a marriage license, and there is no waiting period between the application and license issuance for persons over the age of eighteen (18). The persons to be married cannot be related within a certain degree by blood or marriage and they must not be presently married to another person.

Divorce

There are two basic types of divorce, contested divorce and uncontested divorce. Grounds for divorce are required whether the divorce is contested or uncontested although in an uncontested divorce the ground is “irreconcilable differences” which does not require the proving of specific fault. There is a statutory waiting period following the filing of every divorce before the divorce may be finalized and granted by the court. If the parties do not have children the waiting period is sixty (60) days. If the parties do have children the waiting period is ninety (90) days.

Annulment

An annulment may be requested under certain circumstances in Tennessee but specific requirements must be met before an annulment will be granted.

Legal Separation

The process of a legal separation is almost the same as that for a divorce. A court will resolve all issues of the division of marital property, assets, and debts, as well as the issues of child support and child custody, but the parties will remain legally married. If there is no reconciliation in two (2) years, the court may grant a divorce without proving any fault by the other person.

Adoption

Under Tennessee law, any person can be adopted. In order to be an adoptive parent the parent must be over the age of eighteen (18). Adoption may require the termination of the parental rights of the child’s parents, and may also require home visits and other prerequisites to be met before the adoption can be completed.

Paternity

Cases relating to the claim of paternity or the denial of paternity either by a father, mother, or child can be filed with the appropriate court by any party. The court may be asked to determine a child’s parentage and can order DNA testing to establish the identity of a potential father of a child. Children may bring an action against someone they claim to be their father within three years of reaching the age of majority.

Child Custody

In any case involving minor children, either a divorce action or a parentage or child custody action if the parents were never married, the court may award the care, custody, support, and control of the child or children to either party or to both parties in the instance of joint custody. There is no longer a presumption in Tennessee that the mother is the most appropriate parent to be the primary caretaker and the Court must seek to maximize the participation of both parents in the child or children’s lives. In some cases grandparents or former step-parents may be given limited visitation rights upon request. Once a child reaches a certain age, the court may also choose to consider the reliable preference of that child when making a custody determination. The terms “custody” and “visitation” are technically no longer used in Tennessee and have been replaced with “Primary Residential Parent” and “Alternative Residential Parent” but the old terms are still commonly used by parties and attorneys.

Child Support

Child support is set according to the Tennessee Child Support Guidelines. The law requires that both parents provide for the support and care of their children and will order that support be paid and medical insurance be provided by the appropriate parent. Child support can be established in a divorce proceeding but can also be established where the parents have never been married and do not live in the household together with the child.

Marital Property

In a divorce or legal separation proceeding, the court must make an equitable distribution of marital property. Marital property may include real property or a home owned by the parties, personal property such as cars, housewares, clothing, or jewelry, bank accounts, investment accounts, or retirement accounts, or any number of other assets or belongings. The court may also be asked to make a determination about the classification of certain property and whether that item or property should be considered to be marital property, or property of both parties of the marriage, or separate property belonging to one party separate from the claim of the other.

There are many other issues or matters which may fall under the broad category of family law or domestic law, as some call it. The laws can be diverse and complex, and anyone facing a challenge or contemplating a case in one of these areas should seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney.