Phone: 865-888-5707
Phone: 865-888-5707
  • Serving Knoxville Since 1994
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How can I deal with stress related to my divorce?

Making decisions during a divorce is rarely easy. Even if you and your ex are in agreement on most issues, chances are you’ll experience a great deal of stress as a result of the dissolution of your marriage. Coping with stress in a healthy and meaningful way is crucial, as illustrated by Live About.

Don’t focus on what you can’t control

Does an agreed divorce fit your circumstance?

When you and your spouse agree that the marriage is not working, is there a way to fast-track the divorce process? 

Under current Tennessee law, a couple who agrees to divorce amicably may qualify for an agreed divorce. However, there exist some requirements that both spouses must fit in order for the process to continue in this fashion.

What makes a parent unfit?

Stepparent and relative adoptions in Tennessee are fairly common, but that does not mean that they are easy to obtain. Often, and understandably, the reluctance or refusal of either or both birth parents to voluntarily terminate their parental rights presents a complication to the adoption process. The Court can intervene with an involuntary termination of parental rights, but only upon determining that the parent is unfit to care for or make decisions for the child. 

While it may seem that the standards by which the court may deem a parent unfit should be universal, however, the definition of parental unfitness varies at least somewhat from state to state. In all states, however, family law courts use the best interest of the child as the guiding principle in determining whether a parent is unfit. In other words, if the court determines that remaining in the parent's care and allowing the parent to make decisions for the child would not be in his or her best interest, the court would likely determine the parent to be unfit and would have a responsibility to protect the child.

In Tennessee, the usual ground alleged to terminate the birth parent's rights in an stepparent or relative adoption proceeding is abandonment. The Plaintiff (Adopting Party) must show that the birth parent has abandoned the child, which in Tennessee, is four consecutive months without either visiting with or paying support for the children. Once the grounds have been established the Court must make a further finding that the termination and adoption is in the children's best interest.    

A parenting agreement provides an ounce of prevention

The laws of Tennessee clearly outline the rights and responsibilities of married couples who choose to divorce, both to one another and to their children. However, we at Parker and LaDuke have observed that the laws have not always kept up with the current trend of couples choosing to start families without the formality of first getting married. Consumer Affairs confirms that, while there are fewer laws and statutes on the books pertaining to the rights and responsibilities of an unmarried couple that chooses to split up, parents' responsibilities to their children are largely the same regardless of whether or not the couple was ever married. Couples, attorneys and courts alike are learning how to cope with these issues as they arise.

You and your partner may intend to stay together forever, but keep in mind that no one gets involved in a romantic relationship with the intention of breaking up. It may be a good idea for you and your partner to draw up a parenting agreement now in the hopes that you never need it but in the interest of making matters easier on both you and your children in the event that you do someday split up. 

Pay attention to divorce document dates

Going through a divorce in Tennessee can be a very confusing experience under any circumstances. Divorce matters can become even more confusing for our clients at Parker and LaDuke as the laws continue to change. During this transitional time, you probably want to pay close attention to the timeframe in which you have filed your documents. A new law is going to effect as of Jan. 1st, 2019 that could cost some people a lot more money in their divorce settlements because the rules about how alimony or spousal maintenance relates to your taxes are changing due to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

According to BNY Mellon Wealth Management, the particular document you need to pay attention to is your written separation agreement. As long as this document is in writing and executed on or before Dec. 31st, 2018, the law will grandfather you in and the old rules governing alimony and taxes will apply, even if the divorce finalization does not occur until after the first of the year.

Eligibility for the relative caregiver program

Most people in Tennessee would like to think that when a child is born into a family, that child will enjoy all of the love and support they need from their parents throughout their life. Unfortunately, that does not always happen. Many situations may leave a child in need of care outside of their family home and this care may include that provided by another relative. In these cases, people may be able to apply to participate in a program run by the Tennessee Department of Children's Services.

The program is called the Relative Caregiver Program and it allows those persons who take responsibility for a minor relative to get some assistance while they raise the child. Before applying to be part of the Relative Caregiver Program, a person must be willing to accept program help such as respite care and participation in support groups. The person must also either be the child's legal guardian or custodian or have been granted authority to raise the child by some agreement made within the family.

Understanding benefits eligibility after a military divorce

As a Tennessee resident navigating your way through a divorce from a servicemember, you may be trying to figure out where you will live and how you plan to support yourself once the divorce becomes final. You may, too, be wondering whether you will still be able to take advantage of certain military benefits, such as TRICARE insurance and use of military commissaries, once you and your one-time partner split.

Unfortunately, unless you and your situation meet very clear, distinct circumstances, you will probably not still have access to military benefits after divorce. You may, however, be able to pursue alternative solutions to meet your needs if you do not meet the criteria outlined by the 20/20/20 military divorce rule.

Rewards of the stepparent adoption process

Whether through marriage, adoption, birth or all of the above, we at Parker and LaDuke know there are many ways to create a family in Tennessee. If your spouse already has children from a previous relationship, you can adopt these children as your own via the legal process of stepparent adoption. After you have done so, you and the child can both begin to enjoy the benefits of a parent-child relationship recognized under the law. For example, you will be able to make decisions for the child in regard to child-rearing, education and more, while the child will be able to take your name, receive Social Security when you die and inherit equally with your other children.

If you are thinking about adopting one or more stepchildren, you are in good company. According to Parents Magazine, stepparent adoption is the most common form of adoption. Because of your established relationship with the child, the judge may be able to dispense with the usual requirement for a home study. Nevertheless, there is still a process you need to go through in order to successfully adopt your stepchild.

Alimony taxation may change divorce outcomes

For many couples in Tennessee who might be struggling in their marriages, the time between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day is often a time to put aside conversations of getting divorced. It is common to choose to table these things until after the holidays in part to avoid awkward conversations or moments at family gatherings and also to maintain some treasured family traditions for any children they may share. This holiday season might well see a notable exception to this trend as some couples might choose to hurry up and get divorced in 2018.

The reason for this potential shift is the change in how spousal support will be taxed when the 2019 year gets underway. Bloomberg recently explained that historically the person who receives alimony pays the federal income taxes on the funds. The person who pays alimony actually deducts that money from their tax return. From the government's perspective, this may result in less tax being paid because the recipient is commonly in a lower tax bracket than the payer.

What is the relative caregiver program?

As families, we often come together to help each other out in bad situations. One time when family can be especially helpful is when a parent cannot take care of his or her child. This could happen for a variety of reasons, but if it happens in your family, you may be able to become a part of the relative caregiver program.

The Department of Children's Services explains this program allows relatives to assume the care of children who are related to them by blood or through marriage or adoption. It provides support services as well. If you are part of the program, you can take in a child whose parent may have died, become incarcerated or have been abused or abandoned. It makes it easier on you to be able to take in a child to whom you are related.

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Phone: 865-888-5707
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