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Common Myths About Tennessee Divorce

Franklin divorce lawyer explains some realities

Divorce can be such a contentious and emotionally heightened process, and a lot of misinformation can easily be spread. You or your spouse might spread misinformation to the other, and well-meaning friends and family can share misinformation with you, about what to expect from the divorce process. You may even go online and get misinformation from disreputable sites that want only to get your clicks and advertising dollars, rather than to provide realistic information.

There are several common myths that my clients often bring up. I’m Judy A. Oxford, and as an experienced divorce lawyer practicing in Franklin and other middle Tennessee cities, I have spent my fair share of time busting these myths for my clients, either during our initial consultation or over the course of our work together. The myths might be about the divorce process, or the client’s rights and responsibilities. Misunderstandings about these things can cause clients to make errors that can affect the outcome of their case. These are just some of the common myths about Tennessee divorce that I hear in my practice:

Myth: Once You are Separated or Filed for Divorce, You Can Date Whomever You Like.

Unfortunately, under Tennessee law, you are still responsible for acting faithfully and appropriately so long as you are legally married. Even if you are separated, and have been for years, anything you do that is inappropriate for a married person to do, such as dating another person, sending flirty messages, or having a quick fling, can be grounds for divorce against you. Further, the practical consequence of doing these inappropriate things is that it can trigger a lot of anger in your spouse, which can cause them to not be willing to discuss settlement, much less be willing to settle on reasonable terms. It can result in having a lot more issues to deal with in settlement discussions or at trial. Consequently, your divorce case can last a lot longer and cost you a lot more money. So, you would be wise to wait until you are actually divorced to date and put yourself out there as available to date.

Myth: You Won’t be able to Get a Divorce if Your Spouse Won’t Consent.

You may want a divorce, but your spouse may not. In fact, your spouse may do everything they can to fight the divorce, from outright begging you for a reconciliation to refusing to negotiate a divorce settlement, and dragging out the divorce proceedings. Fortunately, you are not going to be held hostage if your spouse won’t consent to the divorce. So long as you follow the rules and procedures for getting a divorce in Tennessee, you will eventually be granted your divorce. I work hard to try to help my clients get the resolution they wish as soon as possible, and I guide my clients to try to avoid missteps that could delay the proceedings. 

Myth: All Property and Debt is Automatically Split in Half upon Divorce.

It’s true that if you and your spouse agree to a division of your assets and debts, you can be divorced in Tennessee on grounds of irreconcilable differences, and many times, people agree to divide their assets equally. And if you cannot settle, the law directs courts to make an equitable distribution of assets and debts. But the law says that “equitable” does not mean “equal”. And it doesn’t mean that the ruling will automatically be a 50/50 split. There are many factors that the court must consider in order to reach a fair and equitable result, which could mean an increase or decrease of assets or debts on either side. I fight to help my clients try to get the best resolution of their case by arguing the points of law in their favor.

Myth: If You Put Money in a Separate Account, Your Spouse Can’t Get It.

Whether money or other assets are in your name only or in your spouse’s name only, these assets can be considered marital property if acquired during the marriage. (There are exceptions to this general rule.) So if you squirrel away marital money into a separate account in your name only, it is still marital money. And it is subject to division. If you try to keep such an account secret, it can be worse for you. Putting away money or other assets in secret accounts can look suspicious, and depending on the circumstances, it can appear that you are committing fraud. Just be open about all your assets during the divorce proceedings. I will fight to try to help my clients keep what they rightfully think is theirs.

Myth: The Courts Automatically Award Custody to the Mother.

These days, the courts have a better understanding of how important it is for children to have a meaningful relationship with both their parents. There is a statute requiring that each parent will have the maximum amount of time with their children considering certain circumstances. Some argue this means 50-50 time with each parent. And many parents are agreeing to 50-50 time with their children. The courts will be guided by what is in the best interests of the children, above all, when making decisions about which parent will be the primary parent, and what the parenting schedule will be. So, if you think that there is good reason to limit the time your children spend with your spouse, you need to have good facts and make a strong argument in court. I help my clients try to win a greater share of parenting time when there are safety concerns with the other parent, or abuse or addiction with the other parent, or there is other cause to believe that it is in the best interests of the children to have more parenting time with my client.

Myth: You Can Withhold Time with the Children if Your Spouse Does Not Pay Child Support.

Child support is a separate issue from parenting time with the children. If your ex-spouse has been granted time with the children and you do not honor the schedule, you could be held in contempt and face time in jail and payment of a fine, and also possibly have to pay your ex-spouse’s attorneys fees. If your ex-spouse is not paying child support as ordered, and you want an option other than going through the child support office, I can work with you to try to enforce your order. Or I can help you try to get an order in place if you do not have a child support order.

Have additional questions? Contact a skilled divorce lawyer today.

Do not let myths and misunderstandings interfere with resolving the issues in your divorce case, including division of assets and debts, and a parenting plan you want. Call me, Judy A. Oxford, an experienced and dedicated divorce lawyer with an office in Franklin, Tennessee, to explore your options and try to build a strong case for the resolution you want. Call my office at (615) 791-8511 or use the secure form on my website to schedule a free consultation.