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Nashville Tennessee Family Law Blog

Tax bill would turn spousal support on its head

Tax reform has been a topic of hot debate as of late. No matter where one's opinion lies on the issue, Tennessee residents who have gone through a divorce and are either paying or receiving spousal support (also known as alimony) may want to pay attention to the recently released tax bill, that, if passed, could affect them significantly.

As the law currently stands, those who pay spousal support can deduct these payments on their taxes, and those who receive spousal support must count such payments as income, so these payments will be taxed. However, this new tax bill turns things on their head. Under this bill, those who pay spousal support will be taxed, and those who receive spousal support will not have to pay taxes on these payments.

What options do I have for divorce?

Once the decision to divorce is made, another important decision must be made -- how to put a legal end to the relationship. Based on what they see on television, in movies and through anecdotes, some people in Nashville may believe they have no choice other than to litigate their divorce. However, there are other options that may be less stressful and lead to more satisfactory results.

For example, a couple may choose to mediate their divorce. With the help of a neutral, third-party mediator, the couple will discuss their divorce legal issues together and with their lawyers in order to reach a settlement. This can set the stage for positive future dealings with one's ex, which can be especially be important if the couple has children. Also, mediation may be faster and less expensive than litigation. Mediation also gives couples more control over the outcome of their divorce, and it can be done in private.

Review your holiday parenting plans sooner rather than later

Halloween is behind us, and this means that Thanksgiving and the winter holidays will be here before we know it. Some people in Nashville may have already gotten a head start on their holiday shopping or may have even begun decorating the outside of their house with lights before the weather gets so cold that such a task becomes unpleasant. If they host holiday meals, they may be planning their menus and putting together their guest list. There is a lot to plan for, making the holiday season stressful at times.

One stressor that affects parents who have gone through a divorce is their holiday parenting plan. While they may have determined where the child will spend each holiday in their initial parenting plan, circumstances may have changed that makes the original holiday parenting time schedule untenable. However, there are some steps that can be taken in such situations to ensure everyone has a happy holiday season.

We protect our clients' rights in the property division process

Of the many decisions that come when a couple in Nashville enters the divorce process, one of the most confusing and sometimes contentious issues has to do with how to divide their property. Determining what property is marital and what is separate is not always straightforward, especially in the absence of a prenuptial agreement. Moreover, understanding what equitable division means is not always easy.

In Tennessee, when it comes to property division, first, the court will make decisions regarding separate property. Once it is determined who will receive specific separate assets, then the court will divide marital property and debts. Since Tennessee is an equitable distribution state, the split of marital property is not always equal. Instead, the court will consider a variety of factors in determining equitable division.

Sometimes, a legal separation is preferable to divorce

Often, Tennessee spouses will live apart for a while before seeking a divorce. They may want to give themselves some breathing room to determine whether divorce is their best option. Alternatively, they may not want to divorce due to religious reasons or financial reasons, but still want to live apart. In these situations, they may want to seek a "legal separation," rather than merely an informal arrangement. A legal separation granted by the court gives each party both rights and responsibilities that are legally enforceable. But, unlike a divorce, it does not result in the dissolution of the marriage.

There are a number of matters that can be addressed in a legal separation that are similar to those that would be decided in a divorce. For example, in a legal separation, the couple can address property division, child support, child custody and alimony. While these issues can be agreed upon informally, by having them approved by the court it makes them enforceable should a conflict come up. The grounds for a legal separation are often the same as those that a divorce may be based on, such as irreconcilable differences, one spouse abandoning the marriage, one spouse being unfaithful or cruelty on the part of one spouse.

Can a parent relocate out of Tennessee after a divorce?

People move in and out of Tennessee all the time. Perhaps they got a job offer that was too good to turn down, or they wish to be closer to family. Whatever the reason, if a child's parents are no longer in a relationship with one another and one parent wishes to relocate, they must do so within the confines of the law.

Tennessee Code section 36-6-180 addresses parental relocation. Under that law, once a child custody order or parenting plan is in place, if one of the child's parents wants to move to another state or over 50 miles from the child's other parent, even if this is still in Tennessee, the parent seeking to relocate must notify the child's other parent of the relocation, so that the child's other parent has the opportunity to object to the move.

What is required to modify a parenting plan in Tennessee?

Most of the time divorced parents in Tennessee want to provide their child with as much stability as possible, and with that in mind, have entered into a parenting plan that meets the best interests of both the child and the parents. However, life can throw a wrench in even the best-laid plans, leading one parent to seek a modification of the parenting plan. However, there are certain standards that must be met for the court to approve a modification.

If a parent wants to modify a court-approved parenting plan, there must be a material change in circumstance. Such changes may include a parent's failure to follow the court-approved parenting plan, so that the original plan no longer meets the child's best interests. The standard of proof for a modification of a court-approved parenting plan is by a preponderance of the evidence. It is not necessary to show that the child would be exposed to a substantial risk of harm to modify a court-approved parenting plan.

What is commingling in property division?

When it comes to divorce in Tennessee, couples must determine what property is "marital," and subject to division, and what property is "separate," which is not. In general, property obtained during the course of the marriage is marital property, unless a prenuptial agreement states otherwise.

On the other hand, separate property is that property that a spouse had before getting married, inheritances, gifts to one spouse only and that is given by a third party and personal injury awards, among others. However, is it possible for property that was once separate to be considered marital during property division.

Putting the child's needs first during parenting time

Parents in a divorce, despite any ill-will they have with each other, may want to shield their child from the negative aspects of divorce. While it is likely that a child will experience at least some negative feelings regarding their parents' split, such as anger, confusion or sadness, there are steps parents in Tennessee can take to make the process easier for the child, and, ultimately, easier for themselves as well.

First of all, when co-parenting, it is important to put the child's interests first, even if that is not easy to do. In addition, parents should avoid having arguments when the child is present, even if they are arguing during a phone call. After all, little ears are always listening.

Does Tennessee law allow for lump-sum alimony payments?

Sometimes, when it comes to spousal support in Tennessee, the divorcing parties determine that they'd rather receive spousal support as a one-time lump sum, rather than periodic payments. For example, a lump sum payment means that, once paid, the parties need not have any connection with each other, making it easier to move their separate ways. They may wonder then, how Tennessee law addresses lump sum spousal support.

Under Tennessee Code section 36-5-121(h)(1), lump sum spousal support, also known as "alimony in solido," is meant to provide a spouse with long-term financial support. It can be paid all at once, or in installments, but it is not the same thing as transitional alimony. Alimony in solido installment payments must take place over a designated amount of time. Alimony in solido is meant to give the receiving spouse financial support.

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Stanley A. Kweller, Attorney at Law
214 Second Avenue North, Suite 103
Nashville, TN 37201

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Phone: 615-208-9691
TF: 866-568-5306
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