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Helton Law Firm, PLLC

Chattanooga Divorce Law Blog

Options for reaching a child custody agreement

Tennessee parents who are ending their marriage will probably need to discuss child custody as they get the process of the divorce underway. While going to court and letting a judge make the final decision about child custody is always an option, there are other ways that parents can work together to resolve these issues and reach an agreement that might be more appropriate for all parties involved.

For parents who have an amicable relationship, informal negotiations might be an option. Parents can meet and discuss everyone's needs and come to an agreement. They can then have their lawyers review it before taking it to the judge. Other parents might prefer this method but choose to have their lawyers actually conduct the negotiations.

Analyzing military divorce rate data

Tennessee residents who are in the military often see their marriages come to an end. In 2016, 2.6 percent of male troops got a divorce, which was the same as it was in 2013. The divorce rate for female troops was 6.6 in 2016, which was an increase of .4 percentage points since 2015. This was according to data from the Defense Manpower Data Center, and the overall divorce rate was 3.1 percent in 2016.

This number was similar to the 3.2 percent overall divorce rate among civilians. However, the way that the numbers are compared are different, which is why they are generally calculated separately. The only branch of the military to see an overall increase in divorce rates was the Marines. In 2016, the divorce rate for males jumped from 2.3 percent to 2.8 percent while the rate increased from 6.4 percent to 7.7 percent for the women.

Coparenting after divorce in difficult circumstances

Tennessee residents who are struggling to co-parent with a difficult ex-spouse may be able to take some steps to defuse the conflict. The first thing a parent needs to do is focus on the children and put their needs first. A parent should also consider what things are most likely to set the other parent off. This makes it possible to anticipate and better control those situations.

Parents should limit communication with the difficult former spouse to only matters involving the children. This includes setting boundaries around their personal lives and what they are willing to discuss with the other parent. Parents should also avoid making negative remarks about the other parent in front of the child. It is important for children to be able to build a relationship with both parents, and these types of remarks might also result in children feeling unable to express their true feelings. In fact, parents should encourage children in their relationship with the other parent.

Shared parenting may offer benefits for everyone

Tennessee parents who are ending their marriages will need to make decisions about the care of their young children. While some courts cling to antiquated custody and visitation ideas, viewing men as breadwinners and women as homemakers, more courts are turning towards shared physical custody as the model of choice following divorces.

While shared parenting and custody are often discussed in the media, courts still award physical custody to the mothers in an average of 80 percent of the cases nationwide. While women may view receiving custody of their children as if they have won the battle, they may find that this type of arrangement leaves them unable to work.

Understanding the tax ramifications of alimony

Unfortunately, many Tennessee divorcees misunderstand the tax consequences of alimony payments versus child support payments. Child support is neither taxable income to the recipient nor a taxable deduction for the payor. However, alimony or maintenance is an income tax deduction for the paying party and considered taxable income for the receiving party.

When alimony is a part of the divorce decree or settlement agreement, care must be taken to properly draft the papers and make sure that payments are qualified for a tax deduction by the IRS. Few things can be worse than paying an ex-spouse alimony for a year only to have the IRS disallow the tax deduction.

DNA testing in child custody matters

When figuring out child custody matters, some Tennessee residents may be required to undergo DNA testing if questions about parentage exist. With very high accuracy rates, DNA testing can be used to secure child support from a father. A man who does not think he is a child's father could also use testing to relieve his support obligations.

When parents are not married, a child's legal father and biological father might be different. A father not wed to the mother of his child might not be on a birth certificate and could classify as an alleged father. If a father acknowledges paternity or paternity has been determined, then he may become the legal father of a child. Legal parentage means that one may need to make child support payments. A legal parent could also receive custody or visitation rights.

Closing joint accounts during divorce

Tennessee residents who are going through divorce will eventually have to divide marital assets and close joint accounts. When closing a joint checking or savings account, one should first get permission from all the account holders. It should be noted, however, that one can close an account without the other spouse's permission.

If possible, all parties should go to close an account. This may make the process faster and ensure that each person understands where any funds in the account are being transferred to. Both spouses need valid photo identification and must fill out a form to close the account. In some cases, one could be able to mail or fax a request to close a joint bank account.

The flaws inherent with child support calculators

If a Tennessee resident is going to use a child support calculator, he or she should understand that it is only an estimate. The calculator generally only incorporates basic information such as how much a parent makes each year in addition to taking other benefits into consideration. The calculator may also be flawed because it may be difficult for a parent to determine how much time is spent with a child.

If a judge finds that a parent spends 50 percent of his or her time with a child instead of 30 or 40 percent, that could alter a child support calculation. A judge may also decide to add in other costs such as medical care or other reasonable or necessary expenses to provide for a child. It is important to take into account that calculators may not be working properly when a parent uses them.

How to treat a home in a divorce

When a Tennessee resident goes through a divorce, retaining the family home may be a top priority. Alternatively, a person may want to buy a new home with any money that is received in a divorce settlement. However, it may not always be a good idea to ask for or to take control of a marital home when a marriage ends.

Individuals should consider whether it is in their best financial interest to do so. This means taking into account the value of the home as well as whether there will be enough money to pay costs related to owning it. Those who agree to pay alimony or child support after a marriage ends may not have enough to meet those obligations and own a home at the same time. If a person receives alimony, a bank may not accept it as qualifying income right away.

Requesting a modification in child support

Tennessee parents who pay child support might need to have the amount modified if their financial situation changes adversely. This could happen because of an unexpected medical emergency or a job loss. However, parents who stop paying support will continue to owe arrears until a court has made the modification. These arrears cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. Therefore, a parent should make it a priority to request the modification. The parent might want to seek legal advice about how to do so.

If the other parent agrees to the modification, this may make the process less difficult. Mediation may be an alternative to litigation if parents cannot reach an agreement. A person can only ask for a modification after a child support order is in place.

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