Divorce

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A divorce has at least two legal parts. The first is fault and the other is the division of property. The process of obtaining a divorce in Tennessee ranges from the parties preparing the paper work themselves to a collaborative divorce process to drawn out legal battle. Talk with an experienced divorce attorney to find the best way for you to proceed.

The following case law and information is provided to give you help in identifying issues in the division of property in Tennessee: 

   

“Dividing a marital estate necessarily begins with the classification of the property as either separate or marital property. The definitions of “separate property” and “marital property” in T.C.A. § 36-4-121(b)  provide the ground rules for the task. Once the property has been classified, the trial court’s goal is to divide the marital property in an essentially equitable manner.

A division is not rendered inequitable simply because it is not precisely equal. Dividing a marital estate is not a mechanical process but rather is guided by considering the factors in T.C.A. § 36-4-121(c).  

Separate property cannot be included in a marital estate. Thus, a party seeking to include in the marital estate property claimed to be separate property by the other party has the burden of proving that the property fits within the statutory definition of marital property.

Property, otherwise classifiable as separate property, may properly be treated as marital property in several circumstances. First, separate property can be transmuted into marital property if the parties treat it as marital property and if there is no evidence that the spouse owning the property intended it to remain separate. Second, the increase in value of separate property and the income derived from separate property can be treated as marital property if the non-owner spouse has made substantial contributions to the preservation or appreciation of the separate property itself. T.C.A.. § 36-4-. For a non-owner spouse’s contribution to be deemed “substantial,” it must be real and significant. In addition, a non-owner spouse claiming the increase in the value of separate property as marital property must prove that the value of the separate property actually increased during the marriage. This necessarily involves proving the value of the property immediately prior to the marriage and its value at the time of the divorce. 

“Separate property” means:

(A) All real and personal property owned by a spouse before marriage, including, but not limited to, assets held in individual retirement accounts (IRAs);

(B) Property acquired in exchange for property acquired before the marriage;

(C) Income from and appreciation of property owned by a spouse before marriage except as otherwise characterized as marital property;

(D) Property acquired by a spouse at any time by gift, bequest, devise or descent;

(E) Pain and suffering awards, victim of crime compensation awards, future medical expenses, and future lost wages; and

(F) Property acquired by a spouse after an order of legal separation where the court has made a final disposition of property.

“Marital debt” is not defined by any Tennessee statute. However, marital debts are subject to equitable division in the same manner as marital property. “Marital property” is defined as “all real and personal property, both tangible and intangible, acquired by either or both spouses during the course of the marriage up to the date of the final divorce hearing and owned by either or both spouses as of the date of filing a complaint for divorce….” “Marital debts” are all debts incurred by either or both spouses during the course of the marriage up to the date of the final divorce hearing.

*A website is not a substitute for speaking with a lawyer on your case.
Please do not hesitate to contact the John Michael Garrett for a consultation.*