Divorce is never a good thing, but sometimes it is necessary. No lawyer can make it a good thing, but I draw upon my experience to make it as easy as possible. I do that by helping you understand the law as it relates to your situation, and make sure that you get everything you are entitled to.
I also avoid unnecessary work. I don't file motions or set hearings just to increase the legal fee. I don't advise you to do things that will not help your situation. My goal is to help you get through one of life's most difficult times with as little heartache as possible.
From a lawyer's perspective there are two types of divorces - agreed and contested. We handle both.
If you have everything worked out when you come to my office, I consider that an agreed divorce. Everything worked out means that you and your spouse have agreed on how to divide your property (house, car, debt, furniture, motorcycles, checking account, pets, etc.). If you have children, it means that you have agreed on custody, visitation and child support.
If you and your spouse cannot agree on how to divide your property, or if you cannot agree about custody and visitation of your children, you have a contested divorce. Whether you have been served with a complaint for divorce by your spouse, or you've decided to start the process, my office can help. You need to understand your rights and responsibilities; I can explain those.
The first thing you must do is select and hire a lawyer. If you retain me, the first thing I will do is gather some preliminary information, then sit down and talk with you. I need to understand your problem and what you want to accomplish in order to make suggestions and recommendations to help you accomplish your objective.
The spouse who files for divorce is called the "Plaintiff". The legal process begins with the filing of a document known as a "divorce complaint". This document tells the court the reasons a divorce is necessary, how the Plaintiff wants the couple's property divided, and what kind of parenting plan the Plaintiff wants for the couple's children.
The other spouse is known as the "Defendant." Once the Defendant receives the divorce complaint, he/she has 30 days to file and "answer," which either agrees or disagrees with the statements in the Plaintiff's divorce complaint. Often, the Defendant will also file a "counter-complaint," in which he/she will state different reasons a divorce is necessary, and ask for a different way to divide the couple's property, and a different parenting plan.
Contested divorces take time - generally between 6 months and 2 years - but it is possible to get some immediate help. We do this by filing motions for pendent lite relief - temporary help from the court while the divorce is processing. These motions are usually for things such as temporary spousal support, temporary possession of a vehicle or home, and a temporary parenting plan.
In order to get you everything you need out of the divorce, we must have certain information. You will not have access to all of that information, so we must get it from your spouse. He/she does this through a process known as "discovery," and includes sending written questions to your spouse and asking him/her to provide certain documents such as tax returns, emails, etc.
It might also include depositions - a meeting between you, me, your spouse, his/her attorney, and a court reporter. At this meeting I will ask your spouse questions which he/she must answer. The court reporter records every word that is spoken and transcribes it into a written document - a transcript. Your spouse's attorney will probably ask you questions at this deposition, too. It is important that you prepare for these, and I will help you do that.
Often, after discovery is completed, divorcing couples are able to come to an agreement. Once both lawyers have a clear picture of the couple's financial situation, and an understanding of each spouse's desire regarding their children, we are often able to help their clients settle the divorce without litigation.
Tennessee law requires that all divorcing couples participate in a mediation process before they submit their dispute to a judge. Mediation is conducted by mediator - a lawyer who has special training and is certified by the Tennessee Supreme Court. Sometimes the couple's dispute can be settled by a mediator, even when settlement negotiation between the spouses' lawyers have failed.
While most contested divorces do settle, a few do not. Those must be resolved by a judge. This means that you and your spouse must appear in court and present evidence to a judge, so that he/she can make a decision about the division of your property and the custody and visitation of your children.
Litigation can be a nerve-racking experience, and good preparation is essential. It is very important that you and your attorney work together to prepare you for the courtroom experience.