Judy A. Oxford, Attorney at Law
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Williamson County Divorce Law Blog

Enforcing an order for alimony in Tennessee

For many divorcing couples in Tennessee, the entry of the order and decree ending the marriage is the final step. Unfortunately, some divorced spouses do not always obey these orders, especially where payment of alimony and child support is concerned. State law provides a number of remedies, but most require a court order or an order from the state commissioner of human services. In this post, we will provide a summary of the most common enforcement remedies.

Perhaps the most frequent remedy is a court order directing the payment of delinquent alimony and child support upon pain of a jail sentence for non-compliance. The court can also enforce its order by sequestering income and rents from real estate and applying these funds to both past and future alimony payments. In both cases, the spouse seeking the recovery of delinquent payments is entitled to recover attorneys' fees from the other spouse.

Understanding custodial interference in Tennessee

The intense level of emotion that often accompanies a divorce can drive one or both parties to make unwise and harmful decisions about each other or their children. One of the most destructive such choices is the involuntary removal of a child from the custody of the parent who has been awarded legal custody. The action, known as "custodial interference," can involve either incompetent adults or children. In this post, we will focus on children.

In many divorces, the parents are able to agree on joint child custody and visitation arrangements, but in some cases, the court must decide which parent should have physical custody of the child (or children). The order determining child custody is binding on both parents, but occasionally, the parent who is denied custody elects to take out his or her anger at such an order by abducting the child.

What happens to retirement plans in a divorce?

When couples in Tennessee decide to end their marriage, one of the first questions they ask is what happens to our retirement plan (or plans, if both spouses have one)? As with all questions of property division, the parties themselves can resolve the question by entering into an antenuptial agreement before they marry or a marital termination agreement after they decide to divorce. Nevertheless, knowing something about the provisions of Tennessee law regarding the division of retirement accounts in the absence of a spousal agreement can assist a party in negotiating either of these agreements.

All of the property a couple owns is either "marital property" or "separate property." Marital property includes all property acquired by the couple during the marriage. Separate property comprises all property acquired by a spouse before the marriage and certain gifts and bequests. Retirement plans can be both: funds paid into a plan prior to the marriage are considered separate property, and funds paid into the plan, including interest and dividends, are considered marital property.

Nashville looks for ways to help domestic violence victims

Domestic violence can be one of the costliest by-products of a divorce. The anxiety and stress that often accompany divorce proceedings can lead to hurtful and sometimes deadly assaults by one spouse on the other. While most such incidents involve men assaulting women, men are occasionally victims as well. The costs of dealing with domestic violence have led the city of Nashville to seek improved methods for preventing domestic violence and for comforting and caring for its victims.

According to the head of Nashville's Metro Office of Family Services, domestic violence in 2013 cost the state of Tennessee more than $886 million in lost wages, health care costs and judicial and law enforcement costs. One national organization estimates that a single rape can cost a victim almost $150,000 in lost wages, health care and related expenses. Organizations devoted to the protection of female victims of domestic violence are now taking steps to improve aid to victims of domestic violence.

Having the right lawyer can help prevent divorce fraud

Almost all divorces in Tennessee involve some degree of stress, and some involve a very high degree of stress. For some couples, solving issues regarding parenting, such as physical custody and visitation, can be especially difficult. For others, alimony can be problematic. Couples with a high net worth will spend far more time and energy on property division and valuation than will couples of modest means. One of the problems faced by spouses in a high asset divorce is ensuring that the other spouse makes a full and accurate disclosure of assets and income.

Tennessee law requires each spouse to make a full disclosure of marital assets, non-marital assets, income, and debts. When a divorcing spouse signs answers to interrogatories from the other spouse or provides oral testimony in a deposition, he or she is testifying under oath that the information contained in the interrogatories or deposition testimony is true and correct. A knowing misstatement or omission is the equivalent of perjury.

Mother threatened by child's father after buying necessities

Domestic violence has many causes, but buying groceries and other necessities for a couple's child would seem to be far down the list. Unfortunately, a recent case in Nashville shows that even this mundane act can lead to domestic violence.

According to allegations in the victim's statement to police, her child's father kicked open the door to her apartment and demanded that she repay him after she spent his money on necessities for their child. When she refused and ran from the apartment, the man chased her and threatened her with both physical abuse and with a gun. After catching the woman, the man allegedly grabbed her by the neck and pulled her into the apartment.

Location of divorce may affect property division

For most couples living in Tennessee who are seeking a divorce, the issues in the divorce - child support and custody, alimony and property division - will be decided by the courts in this state. But some wealthy couples have more than one residence, and this fact can complicate a judicial resolution of these issues. The pending divorce of Tennessee-born comedian Ralphie May provides a classic example of this problem.

May's wife, Lahna Turner, and their children are living in Los Angeles, while he claims that a house in Nashville is the family's home. Consequently, May is arguing that the divorce should be heard by a Tennessee court. His wife, however, claims that the Nashville house is a vacation home and that the family resides in California. What difference does this make? When it comes to dividing the couple's assets, the answer is "a lot."

Dividing a 401(k) plan in a Tennessee divorce

For many Tennessee couples, a retirement plan is their most valuable asset. Some couples will forego other forms of retirement investment or savings and instead invest in an employer-sponsored plan that also draws employer contributions. If a couple has been married for many years and has been contributing to the retirement account during the entire length of the marriage, the plan can have significant value. When the possibility of divorce looms, dividing the retirement plan (or plans, if both spouses have their own plans) can become a major issue in the division of marital property.

One of the issues is the degree to which a plan participant is vested in the plan. "Vesting" means the percentage of plan assets in an individual's account that are treated as being owned by the participant. Subject to the minimum vesting requirements of federal laws, different plans will have different vesting provisions. The Tennessee Supreme Court has held that both vested and unvested benefits are marital assets that must be divided by the trial court if the parties do not agree on a division.

Music producer Tony Brown charged with domestic violence

Domestic violence can have many causes, from a minor disagreement to spousal infidelity. In a recent case in Nashville, an argument over poses for a photo shoot recently erupted into domestic violence in the home of country music producer Tony Brown, one of the most prolific record producers in the 1990s.

Brown and a female member of his household (her identity and relationship to Brown were not disclosed by police) were discussing poses for a photo shoot that was to take place the next day. The woman was showing Brown photographs and sketches that illustrated her ideas for poses that could be used in the session. Brown apparently felt the photos were too revealing, and he became angry at the woman, calling the poses "slutty."

Bill would strengthen grandparents' visitation rights

Grandparents can become the forgotten parties in Tennessee divorces, even though they may have close and enduring relationships with their grandchildren. A bill recently by the Tennessee House of Representatives aims to protect the grandchild-grandparent relationships of both sets of grandparents by expanding the authority of judges to make specific provisions for visitation by the non-custodial set of grandparents.

Under current Tennessee law, one set of grandparents may be awarded physical custody of a child if the parents have been declared to be unfit parents. In such cases, the non-custodial grandparents have no visitation rights, and the court has no power to grant such rights. The court can only make a recommendation to the custodial grandparents to allow the other set of grandparents to allow visitation.

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