(423) 254-5333

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the process to get a consultation?
Simply call us at (423) 254-5333 or click here to contact us. You will be asked to leave some basic information about yourself and your legal situation and we will quickly reach back out to you to let you know what the next steps are.
What if I already have another attorney?
Once an attorney is involved in your matter, certain ethical obligations attach to that attorney and to other legal professionals that may have the occasion to have contact with you. This firm does not seek to communicate with persons already represented by other attorneys unless it is apparent that such other attorney has expressly or impliedly authorized the communication. When this office learns of another attorney’s current involvement with a prospective client, we will typically find a way to terminate the consultation effort until such authorization is confirmed or that attorney-client relationship is otherwise terminated. This may mean that the prospective client is instructed to discuss their differences further with their current attorney to attempt to resolve any differences arising in that representation before reaching back out to us.

Further, we will not “check work” or give “second opinions” when a prospective client has an attorney already. If you have an attorney already and have a question about their performance or the results you are seeing, please promptly discuss these issues with them before contacting us.

Can I bring my family or friends to my appointment?
There are confidentiality concerns with bringing additional parties to an appointment. Family members and friends are often witnesses in a proceeding and confidentiality of privileged attorney-client information is lost when others sit in on the discussion. We can appreciate an effort to have “moral support” at an important meeting. However, it is expected that this be discussed ahead of the meeting. Further, we do not prefer for children of any age (yes, even infants) to appear at a consultation when the issues relate to a controversy between the child’s parents, guardians, or other loved ones. Children can pick up on a conflict before they can be expected to tell us. For clients or prospective clients with children, we can usually allow the children to wait in a private conference room or small playroom if appropriate childcare cannot be obtained.
How much is your fee? How does the fee structure work?
Minimum fees generally depend on the issues involved with a particular matter and level of cooperation expected from any opposing party, among other considerations. Minimum fees quoted are usually non-refundable. This means that all legal services performed until a certain point in the matter are covered by an individual, one-time fee, regardless of the time ultimately required by the attorney to complete the representation. When that point is reached, additional billing may commence for services exceeding that billing threshold. The exact terms will be given to the client in writing and require their signature to signify agreement.

Unlike many firms, this firm does not bill paralegal or secretarial time for services performed by support staff. Nor does this firm charge for long-distance telephone charges, routine copy charges, routine postage and delivery, or credit card processing. Likewise, this firm keeps all attorney service-time documented to the nearest 1/10th of an hour (rounded upward) and prorates for services performed at the same time for several cases. (Some firms bill to ¼ hour increments or more, causing your prepaid credits to be depleted quicker and causing you to owe more to your attorney sooner.)

Can I get my legal fees paid if I win?
It is possible to have fees awarded in certain types of representations. Family law fees are not typically awarded to one side or the other unless the parties agree, or the Court is otherwise given a compelling reason to order this. A contingency fee (a fee paid based on whether a certain sum can be recovered) can be awarded in some circumstances involving back payment of certain obligations. However, this firm does not generally accept cases under such an arrangement.
How fast can you finish my case?
Divorce cases involving grounds of irreconcilable differences are required to be on file with the Court for at least 60 days before final judgment can be entered (and 90 days if children are involved). The filing date starts with the date that the case is actually filed with the appropriate Court, not the date of separation, the date that a lawyer was retained, the date that a document was signed, etc. In actuality, the total amount of “waiting time” depends on many other factors, including the Court’s own scheduling requirements and ability to properly docket a matter to be concluded.

Otherwise, some cases (divorce, non-divorce, post-divorce, etc.) can be resolved by Default Judgment if the opposing party has been served for at least 30 days but has not taken proper steps to defend against the relief being sought. That process requires at least 30 days between service of process and the request for Default Judgment. The actual time required will, again, depend on many other factors.

A case that is not resolved by agreement or Default Judgment can otherwise take several months or more to resolve, depending on the circumstances.
We all understand how stressful the pendency of a case can be, however, this firm does not advise clients to put the desire for quick relief in front of their own financial or other legal interests. We do not work to “expedite” bad results for clients: getting the best results takes cooperation, diligence, time, and patience!

I have been served legal documents. What should I do?
If you have been sued or otherwise served with legal process, you likely need to retain an attorney to respond appropriately and in the right time period. Please contact us right away!
I have been given proposed agreed documents. Can you look them over for me?
Legal documents generally usually look pretty uniform. What matters most are the contents. When a prospective client contacts this office, our intent is to discuss forming such a relationship so that that individual’s legal interests can best be protected by the contents of any document or instrument being used to address their legal matter. As such, we generally do not advise on or otherwise “look over” legal documents for persons not interested in having an attorney represent them in their matter. There is simply no amount of “looking over” a legal document that will be helpful to you if we aren’t forming a working attorney-client relationship. We want to help you understand and achieve what is in your best legal interests.
How long do I have to be legally separated to be divorced?
While most parties do indeed separate during the pendency of their divorce, this separation is not the same as “Legal Separation.” In fact, Legal Separation is an independent type of relief available to parties who will remain married but desire to own assets separately and submit their marital affairs to the Court to determine property division, custody and support matters, and other obligations between the parties. No period of legal separation is required to be divorced in Tennessee. Legal separation is somewhat distinct from divorce.
Will it be hard to get my name changed after I am divorced? Will it cost more?
It is not difficult to obtain a divorce-related name change. We simply place the requested name in the Final Judgment. It does not lead to additional court costs so long as the request is made at the time of Final Judgment. This results in a newly-decreed name to the individual. The spouse receiving the name change would be responsible for efforts and costs to obtain new certificates, licenses, diplomas, and the like.
My spouse left me. I want to get them for abandonment.
If spouses have separated in any manner, there are likely already adequate grounds for divorce. There is no separate need to have the Court find that any abandonment has occurred. We generally advise that it is not unexpected that the parties to a divorce action have separated and, on its own, this would not support any additional right or claim to relief in an individual’s divorce matter. While certain separation characteristics are more troubling than others, the Court is ultimately tasked with dividing assets, awarding parenting time and child support for any children of the marriage, and ordering most other items of divorce-related relief irrespective of fault or grounds. Likewise, we do not advise that parties should avoid any necessary separation for fear that they will be deemed to have “abandoned” their spouse. The decision on whether, when, and how to separate is an important matter that should be taken seriously, and we thus encourage families to seek help when it appears that a problem is “fixable.” However, the facets of a divorce matter are generally more complex than who lives where and when they live there.
My spouse and I agree we want a divorce. Isn’t this an agreed divorce?
It is not uncommon for us to hear that the parties to a marriage are in agreement to a divorce. However, for this office to consider the matter as “agreed” we need agreement on all issues that could be in dispute. Matters such as property division, debt division, spousal support issues, and, if applicable, custody and visitation issues are expected to have been resolved in an agreed matter. We are happy to discuss how we can help if the matter is not all-the-way there and we do not need a matter to be agreed to provide services.
I got served with divorce papers and they say that I am guilty of inappropriate marital conduct. I haven’t done anything wrong. What should I do?
If you have been sued or otherwise served with legal process, you likely need to retain an attorney to respond appropriately and in the right time period. Please contact us right away!

“Inappropriate Marital Conduct” is sometimes used as a catch-all to plead grounds for divorce where the matter has not already been agreed upon. With proper representation, you will learn how this ground is treated in a typical divorce action and you will be best prepared to resolve your matter toward preserving your best interests.

I heard Tennessee is “not an alimony state.” Is that true?
Not at all. Tennessee has a robust alimony statute and various types of alimony are routinely awarded so long as certain statutory considerations are properly weighed by the Court. This is an instance where we advise clients and prospective clients of the importance of receiving legal advice from an attorney who is interested in the best possible outcome for that person. Avoid relying on rumors, blogs, friends, or family in plotting the course of your case. That’s what we are here for.
How old does a child need to be to decide which parent they should primarily reside with?
A minor child cannot decide where to live unless they are legally emancipated. (We do not handle emancipations. Please do not call us about emancipation or have a child call us about emancipation.) Otherwise, there is simply no age prior to the age of majority that will be reached allowing a minor child to decide. It is true that in some instances the Court can afford more weight to the reasonable preferences of an older child. That is simply another restatement of common sense: an older child may have a more age-appropriate reason to want to spend more time in the care of a particular parent or guardian than a younger child would, and the law respects that in many instances.

However, if a case has reached the point that a child’s preference is being weighed by the Court, it is generally at the trial level and the child is generally required to testify to comport with the rules of evidence. This is often disfavored, absent extraordinary circumstances.

Can I waive receiving child support?
Certain deviations from the presumptive Child Support Guidelines are allowable so long as such deviation is supported by sound reasoning, approved by the Court, and found to be in the best interests of the child or children involved. This firm does not suggest that clients enter into such agreements absent extraordinary circumstances. When we are involved, we aim to maximize relief available to our clients and their children.
Can I terminate my ex’s parental rights?
Absent some extraordinary statutory grounds available to certain families, a Termination of Parental Rights is not allowable unless an adoption is to occur. If a parent is not seeking termination of their own parental rights, they would need a willing and involved stepparent to participate in a stepparent adoption. In any event, statutory grounds must be proven to exist, and the relief must be found by the Court to be in the best interests of any involved child or children.
I heard grandparents have no visitation rights. Is that true?
No. Tennessee has multiple statutes permitting a Court to award visitation rights to certain grandparents. This is not “automatic,” and the burden of proof is generally on such grandparents to properly petition the appropriate Court for this relief. We have successfully helped many grandparents with this effort.
What if I can’t find my opposing party?
We are generally very firm with clients and prospective clients that all efforts to locate an opposing party need to be exhausted before we turn to requesting Court approval for drastic (and sometimes legally “flimsy”) alternatives to traditional, in-person service of legal process. However, should a party legitimately be unable to be located after a diligent inquiry, we can often approach the Court to authorize another method so that legal relief can be granted.