Divorce Overview - The Basics

Fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce. If you have questions about divorce, child custody, child support or alimony, contact our firm to schedule a consultation with an experienced family law attorney for straightforward answers.

Middle Tennessee Divorce And Property Division Attorneys

Tennessee's divorce and marital property division laws are complex.

At Hale and Hale, PLC, we can help you understand the legal rights and options you have under Tennessee law. In fact, individuals and businesses in Middle Tennessee have been relying on our firm to provide accurate information and effective representation for more than 30 years. To learn more about this area of our practice or to speak with a lawyer about your specific concerns — call our Franklin, Tennessee, law offices at 615-794-1312 and schedule an appointment.

The following articles present a general overview of divorce and marital property issues.

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Divorce - An Overview

Contemplating divorce is difficult.When you are deciding whether or not you want to end your marriage, it can be helpful to learn more about the basics of divorce law. A divorce is a judicial decree by which a valid marriage is dissolved. From a legal standpoint, the divorce process will divide a couple's assets and debts; determine the future care and custody of their children; and give each person the legal right to marry someone else. Should you conclude that divorce is the right step for you, it is important to seek the assistance of an experienced family law attorney at Hale and Hale, PLC in Franklin, Tennessee.

Grounds for divorce

Every state has some form of "no-fault divorce," but the laws vary a great deal from state to state. Generally, once residency and filing requirements have been satisfied, a no-fault divorce will be granted if one spouse states that the marriage has irretrievably broken down or the couple has irreconcilable differences. This is different from the past, when only "fault divorces" were available. In a fault divorce, one spouse must allege a marital wrong like adultery, abuse, bigamy, cruelty or abandonment in order to receive a divorce.

In some states, both fault and no-fault divorces are available. An experienced family law attorney can help you determine whether to pursue divorce and what type of divorce is appropriate.

Resolving issues during divorce

Before a divorce may be granted, five basic issues typically must be resolved. They are:

  • Alimony (also called "spousal support" or "spousal maintenance")
  • Property and debt division
  • Child custody
  • Visitation/parenting time
  • Child support

If the spouses can agree on how to resolve these issues, then the divorce is uncontested and can usually proceed rather quickly. If, however, the spouses cannot agree, the divorce is contested. Contested divorces may require a trial in which the family court judge will make the final decisions. Some states require divorcing couples to attempt some form of "alternative dispute resolution" (ADR) prior to litigating a divorce in court. There are several different ADR methods available, including:

  • Mediation. In the mediation process, the couple works with a trained mediator to reach agreement on contested issues. The mediator doesn't make decisions for the couple, but instead helps them facilitate their own resolution. The mediation process is typically less expensive and less stressful for divorcing couples and their children.
  • Arbitration. Arbitration is more like court than mediation, but it can still be quicker and less expensive than a full trial. Instead of using a judge to decide the outcome, the parties agree to use an arbitrator to make decisions. Each spouse will have a separate attorney who will represent each spouse's interests, make arguments and submit sample property/debt division and parenting time proposals for consideration.
  • Collaborative divorce. Collaborative law is a relatively new divorce process that requires an up-front commitment to resolve disputes by negotiation, compromise and agreement. If either side decides to go to court, both attorneys are disqualified from representing their clients in the courtroom; the divorcing spouses must each find new attorneys prior to going to trial, essentially starting "from scratch." This serves as an incentive to remain committed to the process and to finding a resolution.


Alimony (also called "spousal support" or "maintenance") is financial support that one spouse pays to another. The alimony can come in a lump sum, over a limited period of time or indefinitely. Because the laws vary from state to state and have changed dramatically in the past few years in many areas, it is best to consult an attorney with questions about alimony. Factors that the court may consider in determining alimony include the length of the marriage, the age and health of the parties, sacrifices one spouse made for the benefit of the other (like one staying home to run the household while the other one enjoyed career success) and the ability of each spouse to earn a living.

Division of property in equitable distribution states

Courts in states that use the equitable distribution system are tasked with making a fair (but not necessarily equal) division of property and debts between the divorcing spouses. The court makes the decision based on the circumstances of the divorce, the non-financial contributions to the marriage of each spouse, input from the parties themselves and missed academic or career opportunities.

Speak to a divorce lawyer

Making the decision to end a marriage is difficult. Even so, it is in your best interest to approach the divorce process from a rational perspective, trying not to let your emotions cloud your judgment. Working with an experienced family law attorney from Hale and Hale, PLC in Franklin, Tennessee, will help you get through your divorce and begin your new life.

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DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.

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