Serving Clients in Knox, Blount, Anderson, Loudon, Sevier & Roane Counties

What Is Family Law?

Family law is a broad specialty of legal practice that includes marriage, divorce, adoptions, custody arrangements and Grandparents’ rights among other issues. Sometimes referred to as domestic relations, this field has expanded n recent years to same-sex partnerships, foster children and elder care. Family law overlaps with other specialties like criminal law, military law and elder law. In fact, the changing profile of the nuclear family will lead to even more legal questions in need of judicial settlement in the future. Common areas of practice appear below.


The pain and anxiety surrounding divorce goes well beyond the legal issues. Whether serving a petitioner or a respondent, a divorce attorney will evaluate the grounds for divorce. Under Tennessee law, grounds may include adultery, cruel and inhuman treatment, drug addiction, imprisonment for a felony, or prolonged separation. Tennessee also allows for divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. Courts require a waiting period of 60 to 90 days, as well as a signed dissolution agreement between the parties before a final decree is granted.


One spouse may have been financially dependent on the other during the marriage, and in need of monetary assistance as separate lives are established. Courts recognize a wide range of economic conditions, and can order various forms of alimony to address them. Among them are rehabilitative alimony, transitional alimony, permanent alimony  and alimony in solido.


Judges will order a party to the separation or divorce to pay child support. Tennessee statutes establish guidelines for courts to follow when imposing child support payments that factor both parents income, the time the children spend with each parent, daycare and health insurance costs, each parents responsibility for other children, and the children’s unique health and educational needs.


Family lawyers will advise you about what constitutes marital property as opposed to your separate property. Again, the state legislature issues rules to judges in determining the equitable division of marital property, though the courts retain discretion in this matter. In addition, taxes and prenuptial agreements must be considered when distributing property that was previously held in common.


Tennessee courts can award child custody to one or both parents or—depending on the court findings—to a third party. Visitation rights for the non-custodial parent are also determined by the court. If abuse is determined, such rights can be rescinded.


Statutes governing the adoption of children seek a balance between the desires of adoptive families and the rights of birth parents. Tennessee family attorneys can advise clients on eligibility, petition procedures and waiting periods. The Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children applies when seeking a child from out-of-state.