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Helton Law Firm, PLLC

Chattanooga Divorce Law Blog

Smart reasons to refinance a mortgage

For many Tennessee couples, the marital home is their largest shared asset. After a couple divorces, it may be a good idea to refinance the mortgage on that home. For starters, it could help to preserve an individual's credit if he or she is not going to live there. While one spouse may offer to buy the other out, both are still liable for making payments if both names are still on the loan.

Refinancing a loan might also provide an opportunity to cash out equity and do a buyout properly. Generally, each spouse is entitled to a portion of the equity built up during the course of a marriage. In lieu of that equity, it may be possible to ask for other assets in a divorce settlement or modify a spousal support arrangement. Refinancing a home loan can be ideal for those who have an adjustable rate mortgage and would like a fixed rate instead.

Child custody for military couples

Separating parents in Tennessee may go through a complicated period after a decision to divorce is made but before it is final. During this time, they may not have a permanent custody arrangement in place. Before they make an agreement, they have equal custody rights. However, it is best for the children if parents put some kind of routine in place.

Whatever custody agreement the parents agree to at this stage, it should allow children to have time with both parents. This may not amount to 50/50, but the contact with each parent should be regular. Parents may need to be flexible at this stage as they and their children adjust to the new schedule. This could mean that sometimes a parent may need to take the child on a weekend that is not planned if the other parent has a conflict. Communication is also important at this stage so that parents know when the child is supposed to be picked up on any given day.

Judge grants actor Tyrese Gibson joint custody of daughter

Moviegoers in Tennessee who have seen actor Tyrese Gibson in some of the "The Fast and the Furious" films might have also noticed his very public child custody dispute. The most recent ruling from a family court judge appears to have resolved the situation by approving 50/50 joint custody of his daughter with his ex-wife.

This decision follows the conclusion of an investigation by the Department of Child and Family Services into allegations of child abuse. Gibson's ex-wife accused him of physically attacking her and the child. She had obtained a temporary domestic violence restraining order in September, which gave her physical and legal custody of the girl. In addition to approving joint custody, the judge denied the ex-wife's request to make the restraining order permanent. Gibson had consistently denied the charges of abuse.

Abusive relationships create co-parenting challenges

Divorce offers some relief to people in Tennessee when they want to escape violent relationships, but co-parenting often keeps the door open to an abusive former partner. University researchers collected information from domestic violence victims during the first year after divorce to evaluate whether abuse continued as the former partners continued to raise children.

Interviews with mothers throughout the first year revealed differences in the severity of harassment based on the nature of the original abusive relationship. Domestic abuse typically represents either coercive controlling violence or situational couple violence. Ongoing efforts to control, intimidate and isolate a person define the controlling form of violence. Situational violence occurs when the partners argue and the dispute escalates to physical attacks.

Proposed law change could alter alimony payments

It is possible that Tennessee residents could be paying taxes on the alimony paid to their former spouses. Under the current version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the tax deduction given to those who make alimony payments would be eliminated. As those who pay alimony generally pay a higher tax rate, it could mean lower payments each month. In most cases, any request or order to pay alimony takes the impact of taxes into account.

Therefore, it is possible that a court would simply order lower support payments per month based on a person's ability to make them. In most cases, alimony is paid by the spouse who earns substantially more than the other. The length of time that a couple has been married may also play a role in determining whether a spouse is entitled to support after a divorce.

Planning for custody issues at the onset of divorce

Tennessee parents understand that parenting goes on after a couple chooses to divorce. What might not be completely clear to the parents is how they will do this successfully when they are no longer living together. They can, however, plan for this from the beginning of their separation.

One of the things parents can do to help ensure that they can continue to parent their children successfully after a divorce is to create a well-designed parenting plan. A well-designed plan takes into consideration the best interests of the children as well as the lives and schedules of both parents. It provides clearly defined roles for each parent, including what roles they will play when the children are not in their physical custody, and includes a clear visitation schedule. Other things that parents should consider when designing the plan is where visitation exchanges should happen and how new partners or remarriages might affect everyone. A well-designed plan can save emotional stress and further spending for the parents since a plan that is not well-thought out can result in the parents having to go back to court to fix the things that they later deem are not working.

Child custody when parents are unmarried

If a Tennessee couple is unmarried when they have a child, legally, both biological parents have a right to see the child unless there are extenuating circumstances that make it unsafe for the child. However, an unmarried father must first establish paternity. This may simply involve signing an acknowledgement of paternity when the child is born.

However, in some cases, paternity may be in dispute. DNA testing may be necessary. With paternity legally established, parents may be able to make an agreement about custody and visitation without going to court. They can put together a parenting agreement that addresses a number of more specific elements of raising the child including what religion the child will be brought up in, how the child will be educated and how modifications to the agreement will be handled.

How the BRS system could impact military divorces

Military spouses in Tennessee who are planning to divorce need to be aware of how their divorces might be affected by the new Blended Retirement System, which will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018. This system has the potential to change their divorce settlements.

Under the BRS system, military personnel will have the option to opt-in. If they do, they will receive matching contributions ranging from 1 to 4 percent for the contributions that they make to their retirement accounts. The matching contributions end when the military members reach 26 years of service. Under the new system, spouses might expect to get 40 percent of their former spouses' base pay instead of 50 percent, which could pose some problems for people who divorced in 2017.

Child support and wage garnishment

Child support is the leading cause of wage garnishment in the U.S. When a Tennessee parent does not comply with a court order for child support, he or she may face wage garnishment. Garnishments can create a major strain on employees who lose expected income.

A study by the ADP Research Institute examined wage garnishment statistics all across the country. They found some trends that employees and companies should be aware of. The study found that 3 percent of employees had a garnishment due to child support, which was slightly higher than that for student loan and commercial loan debt and much higher than for other types of debt. The majority of workers, 71 percent, with garnished wages were men, and this was primarily due to child support obligations. Middle-aged workers were also more likely to be garnished compared to workers under 35 or over 54.

The tax implications of child support and alimony

When a Tennessee resident gets a divorce, he or she may make both child support and alimony payments. An individual who is making payments to a former spouse may benefit from having as much of a given payment as possible classified as alimony. This is because it may qualify for a tax deduction. The recipient of an alimony payment would need to record it as income on a tax return.

Those who are offered a combination of child support and alimony may want to look at the tax implications before accepting any offer. It may also be a good idea to consider variables such as how old a child is or how long the marriage lasted before accepting an offer. Generally, a child's age will determine how long child support payments last while the length of the marriage may determine how long alimony must be paid.

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