Articles Posted in High Asset Divorce

Shacking-Up-Cole-Law-Group-300x200Born right on the cusp of Millennial and Gen Z, I was raised with the impression that fifty percent (50%) of marriages end in divorce. Given that less than inspiring statistic, there is no doubt as to why the younger generations are postponing marriage or dropping the seemingly archaic notion all together. But at what cost? Outside of the tax implications, there are legal dilemmas that arise when you have been living with a significant other and have to divide assets without the protections of a divorce.

How does a divorce protect me?

Although many of us were raised with the idea that divorces are bad, they do allow certain protections for couples that need to separate. In Tennessee, ‘marital property’ is subject to equitable distribution at the time of divorce. In general, all property obtained during a marriage and all income from any increase in value of property obtained prior to the marriage constitutes marital property.[1] However, if you are not married and have no other contract dictating who gets what in the event of a breakup, despite investing in a home for years, you may walk away with nothing.

pexels-cottonbro-4098224-300x200Am I Eligible for an Annulment in Tennessee?

When a couple seeks to end their marriage in Tennessee, the termination of the marriage is generally accomplished through divorce. The divorce process usually commences with one spouse filing for divorce in a Tennessee court of competent jurisdiction. Once the divorce litigation is initiated, it will progress in either an uncontested or contested fashion. In uncontested divorce cases, the divorce is finalized upon the court approving and incorporating a Marital Dissolution Agreement (and a Permanent Parenting Plan if there are minor children born of the marriage) into a final judgment of divorce. In contested divorce cases, the parties are unable to agree on a Marital Dissolution Agreement (and Permanent Parenting Plan if applicable), and the divorce is finalized by a trial judge upon the entry of a final judgment of divorce after a trial.

There is, however, a rare alternative to divorce: annulment. Annulment is only available if grounds for annulment existed at the time a couple married. In other words, there must have been a defect in the marriage from its inception that renders it subject to annulment, and the spouse seeking the annulment has the burden to prove that the defect existed at the time of the marriage. Simply put, grounds for annulment in Tennessee do not arise after a couple marries, although they may be grounds for divorce.

pexels-curtis-adams-3935350-300x200Does Each Co-Tenant Have the Right to Use 100% of Joint Property?

In Tennessee, 95.2% of the land is privately owned.[i] In many cases, private land is concurrently owned by two or more individuals as tenants in common. Although each co-tenant in a tenancy in common holds an undivided interest in the property and retains the right to use and enjoy the property in its entirety, the co-tenants do not necessarily hold equal interests in the total value of the property. For example, one co-tenant may hold a 60% share of the property’s interest while two other co-tenants hold a 20% share; despite this, each tenant has the right to use 100% of the property.

What Is a Recurring Legal Issue That Impacts Tenancies In Common?

“Names are the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”– Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Whether to keep your married name or revert to your maiden name after a divorce is a decision that carries both practical and emotional ramifications. Objectively, no right or wrong answer to this question exists. Each determination must be made on a case by case basis. When contemplating whether you should keep your married name or opt for your maiden name after a divorce, consider the following:

1. Children

In preparation for a civil trial the attorneys for both parties have a period of time that is called the “discovery” phase, a process during which they try to ascertain all the facts about the case and document everything the other side might know. One of the devices used during discovery is the deposition. A deposition is basically your sworn answers to questioning by an attorney (the opposing attorney if you are one of the parties involved). Depositions usually take place in a conference room at an attorney’s office and are attended by both attorneys, a court reporter, the people who are suing or being sued, and/or witnesses. If you are the deponent in a deposition, you will be asked oral questions under oath. No judge will be present and the proceeding will be informal.


Depositions are held for the following purposes:

All is fair in love and war…well, the judge may differ with this opinion. Many persons going through a divorce experience a euphoric feeling of freedom during the initial phase of the case. It can be exciting, right? A new chance at true love. That confidence booster you really needed. Or perhaps time to do those things you have always wanted to explore. However, the most important issue to realize at this stage of your “new-found freedom” is that you may want to decline the impulse to date until such a time the Court has ordered your divorce FINAL.

In Tennessee there are two types of grounds for divorce-fault, or no-fault. The no-fault grounds for divorce are “irreconcilable differences” (yes, the 1984 film starring Ryan O’Neal and Shelley Long was aptly titled for this situation) and “living in separate residences and not cohabiting as spouses for at least two years” (this ground applies only if the couple has no minor children). The fault grounds for divorce are a little more interesting, and some are very obvious. They include, but are not limited to impotence, bigamy, desertion of over one year, incarceration for a felony, attempting to take the other spouse’s life, pregnancy by another person without husband’s knowledge, habitual drunkenness or drug abuse after the marriage, inappropriate marital conduct, abandonment, and last but not least-adultery.

So, let’s think about this for a moment. Adultery is grounds for a “fault” divorce. When you and your spouse decided to end your marriage, your Complaint for Divorce stated the grounds as “irreconcilable differences.” Then-that aforementioned euphoric feeling of freedom enters. The juices are flowing. That attractive man or woman you have always wanted to talk to happens to be in line with you at the coffee shop. One thing leads to another and…BOOM, you are now seeing each other and dating. Sounds exciting, right? WRONG. You have now opened the door for your spouse (yes, you are still married at this point until the Court enters your Final Decree of Divorce) to amend his/her Complaint for Divorce to include grounds for adultery. Adultery is not defined within the Tennessee Code, but is widely accepted by the judiciary to mean sexual intercourse between a married person and a third party other than one’s spouse. An emotional affair, while not technically adultery, can still be considered inappropriate marital conduct, the catch-all fault ground for divorce in our state. Many people fall under the false-impression that merely dating or keeping company with someone is acceptable because his or her spouse will be hard-pressed to prove that actual sex has taken place; he or she is wrong. In this state it has long been held that it is unnecessary to have direct evidence of illicit intercourse and that adultery can be proven rather by a mere preponderance of circumstantial evidence.

As divorce rates increase and more couples forgo having children, the battle over who gets custody of the family pet, visitation schedules with the pet, and how support for the pet is allocated is becoming an increasingly hot topic. Many people treat their fur babies as part of the family. However, in most states during the divorce process it is customary for pets to be considered as mere property in the equitable distribution scheme. Today society is less accepting of such a practice and has begun petitioning the courts to take a more personal approach. Some judges are now making exceptions and expanding common law to allow for more preferential treatment of pets. However, case law on the topic is still sparse.


What separates pets from other inanimate personal property is the amount of care and maintenance that they require, i.e. veterinary bills, cost of food or special diet, grooming, etc. Some courts have therefore gone so far as to award “petimony” to the custodial owner of the pet. Petimony is an alimony-like payment or economic support by one spouse for the continuing care of an animal. It is different from spousal support, which is compensation awarded during the divorce process or for some period of time thereafter in order to help maintain the marital lifestyle of the former spouse. Petimony is also different from child support, because the child has a right to maintenance from his or her parents whereas a pet does not.

When initially speaking with an attorney in regard to obtaining a divorce, or immediately following retention of counsel, a husband or wife is usually advised to be wary of what he or she posts to social media sites. Such posts could potentially be used against the husband or wife if he or she admits to extramarital activities while separated, or the posts portray the spouse as a parent who is less capable of caring for the parties’ child(ren) (e.g. posts mentioning drug use or alcohol consumption).

However, are there instances in which social media sites could be of indispensable value to a husband or wife wishing to pursue marital dissolution? The answer is “yes” if you are on the “serving” side of the legal dispute.

The first step in obtaining a divorce from your spouse is to file a complaint for marital dissolution with the Court. Upon filing of this legal document with the Court, the complaint must be served upon the husband or wife, or put simply, a copy of the complaint must be given to the spouse. Yet there are many instances in which a spouse cannot be found. What method of service do you turn to if you are physically unable to locate your spouse? Typically, the solution is divorce by publication. This is a process in which you publish notice of your divorce proceeding in a newspaper of general circulation in the county of your spouse’s last known residence.

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