Divorce is a complex emotional and legal process.  The process of not only separating from the individual but also resolving issues involving the custody of your children, the division of property, spousal support, and other outstanding legal issues can be overwhelming and stressful.

Divorces in Tennessee are frequently resolved by agreement prior to the case going before the court at trial.  Attorney Smith's calm demeanor assists clients in separating themselves from the highly emotional process in order to make wise and thoughtful decisions regarding the legal issues to be resolved.  A resolution of a divorce case will include, at a minimum, the filing of a Complaint or Answer, Notice of Mandatory Injunctions, a Marital Dissolution Agreement, a Permanent Parenting Plan if there are minor children involved, and a Final Decree of Divorce.  

Child Custody

Tennessee law acknowledges that most children do best when both parents are involved in their lives.  Therefore, the law encourages relationships between a child and both of his or her parents to be fostered following divorce ― unless, of course, such actions are not in the best interests of the child, which is the most important consideration during any child custody proceeding.

Parents are welcome to attempt to work together to decide which custody arrangement is in their child's best interests, which can often happen through mediation.  However,  if they are unable to agree to a custody arrangement, the court may have to make the decision for them. When establishing child custody, Tennessee courts will consider the following factors:

The past and current relationship between the child and each parent, including the existing love and emotional ties as well as whether one parent has primarily performed most parenting responsibilities in the past
The ability of each parent to provide the child with the necessities, including clothing, food and medical care
The ability of each parent to raise the child, including his or her moral, mental and physical fitness
The past and potential future performance of parenting obligations, including whether each parent will promote and encourage a meaningful relationship between the child and other parent
The needs of the child, including emotional needs
The home, school and community life of the child, as well as the importance of continuing a stable environment
The child's relationship with other siblings and other family members
The child's preference, but only if he or she is 12-years-old or older
Any evidence of emotional or physical abuse
Any other relevant factor

The court will outline a custody arrangement, including the parents' decision-making authority and residential/custody schedule, in a written plan otherwise referred to as a permanent parenting plan .

Child Support

In every divorce, if children are involved, the court must set child support in order to ensure adequate provisions are made for the children.   The Tennessee child support system - governed by the child support guidelines - is intended to ensure that children receive adequate child support after divorce . Both parties have an obligation to support the children after divorce.  The child support guidelines are complex and extensive, involving a number of variables used to calculate a parent’s child support responsibilities.  The most important factors for calculating child support are each parent’s income and time spent with the children.  An experienced attorney familiar with the child support guidelines is a major asset in assisting a client receive a fair, reasonable child support obligation.

Post-Divorce  Modification and Contempt

Following divorce, when parties do not comply with the court's orders, such as failure to pay child support or to follow the parenting plan, a person will need an attorney assist with bringing an action for contempt.  Also, a party may desire to make changes to certain provisions from the divorce, such as modification of a parenting plan or child support obligation.  A trustworthy, experienced family law attorney can be a great benefit when a party desires to enforce or modify the court's previous orders.

Prenuptial Agreements

Antenuptial agreement - more commonly known as prenuptial agreements or "prenups" - are contractual agreements whereby the parties agree to the disposition of certain property in the event of divorce or death prior to the marriage.

Dependency and Neglect

Termination of Parental Rights & Adoption

Orders of Protection and Restraining Orders

Practice Areas

Ryan C. Smith

Attorney at Law