So you have decided that you are going to file for divorce. We all know that ending one’s marriage is not an easy thing to do. The emotional turmoil, the hurt, the sadness, and memories that now are tinged with bad feelings make it seem like you will never get through this. But trust us when we say YOU CAN!
So, where do you start?
When a marriage fails suddenly or over time, many issues have to be addressed. On top of changing your private life, dealing with your children and the marital property, you will also be navigating for the first time with the legal issues that arise when a divorce takes place. Finding your way through the minefield of the legal system in Knoxville can be daunting. But if you have an idea of the process and what you need to expect, you are better equipped to deal with the situation.
This article will guide you through some of the basics of divorce to help you understand where to start, the process, and how your attorneys in Knoxville, TN, can help.
Find a Lawyer
Navigating the divorce process without professional help is not an easy task. Even if both the husband and wife agree about the divorce issues, having a lawyer to advocate for your interests will make the process easy and fair for you.
Also, there are complex legal issues that need to be addressed during a divorce, such as child support and custody, alimony, division of assets, and debts. Thus finding a family law attorney in Knoxville, TN, who is well versed in the area of divorce proceedings is a wise decision.
An experienced divorce attorney will understand and evaluate your goals and help you set realistic expectations about what the divorce process will look like. They will also advise you of any pitfalls that could hurt your case and guide you through those tricky waters. And, of course, they will ensure that your rights are protected in the divorce proceedings, making sure you get everything legally due to you and your children without any added stress.
It would be best to find an attorney you can trust and afford. So that when all is said and done, you can walk away feeling like you got a fair deal and can put the past behind you with no lingering issues to plague your future.
Know your Options
There are many options available to you regarding filing for divorce depending on your situation. However, having a basic understanding of your options will help you make an informed decision and choose the best course of action for you during your divorce.
The first option is to go through mediation, which can be a very informal process that allows you and your spouse to agree on the terms of your divorce. If both parties agree, they can file the necessary paperwork in court for approval. Knoxville divorce lawyers represent both parties during mediation proceedings, but most cases are settled out of court.
This not only saves on legal fees but also avoids the emotional strain of a lengthy trial where you would have to face your ex-spouse and argue about issues such as property division and child custody in front of a judge. In addition, any agreement formed during mediation is recorded and enforced by law, just like a court order if both parties agree.
Collaborative divorce allows both parties and their lawyers to sit down and discuss all matters that need to be addressed during the proceedings. If an agreement is reached, it’s then put together in a binding and enforceable contract like any other legal contract. Once both parties sign the contract, they can file it with the court instead of going through a traditional divorce process where litigation takes place.
If mediation fails, collaborative divorce allows both parties to negotiate their settlement without compromising their rights or interests. The focus here is on resolving disputes instead of fighting over them, making it a much more economical and efficient process.
Litigation is more commonly used in a traditional divorce and involves going to trial and arguing the issues before a judge. Both parties hire Knoxville divorce attorneys during this process, which can make it an expensive proposition, especially if you end up in court multiple times during your negotiation process.
The judge will divide the assets acquired during your marriage and decide what is appropriate for each party going forward. This is a highly complex area of law as judges often struggle with determining how to fairly distribute marital property amongst two people who are no longer together. They consider many factors such as the length of the marriage, each party’s income and earning potential, and most importantly, their financial needs going forward. A judge will also decide child custody and visitation rights, child support, and spousal support (alimony).
We do not mean to scare you off from litigation but to make you aware of the pros and cons of this type of process. However, if you feel that you and your spouse cannot agree on any issues, litigation may be the best option for resolving your divorce.
In negotiation, one party will submit a proposed divorce agreement to the other party, who will either accept it or come up with a counteroffer. This process will go on until an agreement is reached.
But it’s important to know that if the other party rejects the offer, you cannot make another one. You can only renegotiate once all original offer terms have been accepted or rejected. This makes negotiation an expensive and unpredictable process because you don’t know how many times you will need to go back and forth before an agreement is reached.
Attorneys are necessary for both sides in a negotiation process to protect your interests and rights. And they need to review and modify any agreement reached to be sure it’s valid and enforceable before you sign.
Steps to Proceed
A typical divorce procedure goes through many steps before a final decree is entered. Understanding what these steps are will help you plan and prepare for the route you want your divorce to take.
Filling out Divorce Papers
The first step in any divorce proceeding is filing the divorce petition. The petition is a legal document that contains information about you, your spouse, and your marriage. This document must be complete and accurate, so check it carefully before signing.
Filling a petition before the court will establish that at least one party, i.e., you or your spouse, has met the state’s residency requirements and grounds for divorce as listed in the petition. Ground for divorce may vary by state but are generally categorized as no-fault or fault.
Once the petition is filed with the court, it will be served on your spouse, and they will have twenty days to respond. If your spouse doesn’t file an answer, the judge may provide one for them based on your information in your petition. Your spouse will then have ten days to accept or reject it.
If children are involved, a judge will issue temporary orders. These orders will set out the terms for custody, visitation, and support of any minor children until a final agreement is reached or a trial takes place.
It’s important to know that filing the petition initiates the divorce process but does not immediately end your marriage. You remain legally married while the divorce is pending, and temporary orders are in place. It is not until the judge finalizes your decree that you are legally divorced.
If your spouse responds to your petition, he/she may also file a counter-petition or simply just an answer. During this time, if both parties can agree on most issues, they may choose to attempt mediation instead of litigating the divorce.
Attorneys in Knoxville, TN, will then help each party determine whether they are better off settling or going to trial on specific issues. Mediation, if successful, can save both parties time and money because it is usually less formal than litigation. However, an attorney may still be necessary to represent you throughout the process.
If disputes can’t be settled, your divorce will move forward to trial. A judge will hear both sides before giving his final verdict on the issues.
Read here to know why some divorces take so long.
The judge will decide after the trial and issue a final judgement regarding custody, visitation, support, and division of property. This is an official court order with the force of law behind it. Once the final judgement is signed, your divorce becomes official. You can then file a request with the court to change your records to reflect that you are single again.
Divorce is a big decision and requires careful planning. There are many issues to consider when filing for divorce, and it can get complicated since each state has its laws regarding alimony, child custody, visitation, etc. Be sure to contact attorneys in Knoxville, TN, before proceeding with your divorce to plan a route that’s best for you.
The experienced divorce attorney with Volunteer Law Firm can help you handle your divorce or child custody case. We have dealt with all types of family law matters for many years now and can help you file a petition with the court, serve it on your spouse, negotiate an agreeable settlement or take your case to trial if necessary.
Call us today to schedule an appointment.