Answers To Your Family And Criminal Law Questions

Peterson White will be a trusted resource for you over the course of your case. We take great pride in answering our clients' questions and addressing their concerns in a timely matter.

Below are some of the most frequently asked questions we hear from our clients. While these answers are not a substitute for a lawyer's individual advice, they can provide useful, general information.

FAQ: Family Law

Do I really need an attorney for divorce?

You can file for divorce without an attorney. However, many people who choose to file divorce without legal representation realize too late that a lawyer would have made a dramatic difference. The end result of any case will have long-term and far-reaching effects on the people and things that matter most to you — such as your children, your retirement, your ability to support yourself, and more. Once a final resolution is reached, it s very difficult and/or impossible to change. Even if you may save money, you can end up with a less favorable outcome both legally and financially.

Having a qualified attorney on your side gives you the benefit of having a professional represent and fight for your interests. An experienced attorney will protect your rights, help you understand your options and pursue an outcome that is aligned with your goals.

Do I need to prove that my spouse did something to cause the divorce?

No. Tennessee's no-fault divorce laws mean that you no longer need to provide a specific reason for your divorce. Simply stating that you and your spouse have irreconcilable differences is enough to proceed with a divorce.

Will I have to go to court?

Most family law cases settle prior to court, reaching a resolution either through negotiations and/or mediation. Mediation is a process in which the parties meet with a neutral mediator who attempts to facilitate reasonable agreements as to the various issues in their case. In most family law cases, the court will require that you attend mediation before trial. Having effective and knowledgeable legal counsel means that most parties end up resolving their issues short of trial. The quality of your representation, your progress in negotiations, and your ability and willingness to compromise are the most likely indicators that your matter will be able to be resolved without a full blown trial.

How is child custody determined in Tennessee?

Courts in Tennessee base custody decisions upon an analysis of several statutory factors which determine what custodial arrangement is in "the best interest of the child." In doing so, the Court is required to attempt to reach a resolution which will ensure that both parents enjoy the maximum participation possible in their child's life. However, this does not necessarily mean that each parent will receive 50/50 custody, as courts are also required to take into account other factors.

The factors which the court considers in making custody determinations are numerous and their application varies on a case by case basis. For more details on the factors and how they would apply in your specific case, you should consult with a qualified attorney. Each factor is weighed in consideration to other factors, and could result in material changes and/or consequences to parents' custodial and visitation rights. For a complete list of the statutory factors, see Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-6-106.

How does property division work?

For the purposes of divorce, property is divided into two types: marital and separate. In general, property acquired during a marriage is considered to be marital property, though there are exceptions, such as gifts or inheritances. Separate property is property that was acquired by the individual spouses before the marriage. If separate property is "commingled" with marital property, meaning it is combined with marital property in a bank account or mixed together with marital property in another way and cannot be separated, it will be considered marital property.

Tennessee is an equitable distribution state. This means that all marital property will be divided in a way that is fair and equitable, but not necessarily equal. Courts will look at many factors when deciding upon an equitable division of property, including:

  • The length of the marriage
  • Each spouse's age, health, skills and finances
  • Each spouse's earning capacity
  • Each spouse's contributions to the marriage
  • The value of the separate property each spouse owns
  • The tax consequences of certain property settlements

What types of alimony are there in Tennessee?

Under Tennessee law, there are four types of alimony which a court can award. The most commonly awarded forms of alimony are Periodic Alimony, or Alimony In Futuro. Periodic Alimony allows for an award of alimony for a period of time to allow the economically disadvantaged spouse to get back on his/her feet. Alimony In Futuro is alimony which is granted for the foreseeable future to the economically disadvantaged spouse in order for that spouse to reach the same standard of living as she/he did during the marriage. It is usually granted due to a disability, old age, etc. Both of these types of alimony are designed to allow a dependent spouse to maintain the lifestyle he/she had during the marriage.

Rehabilitative or Transitional alimony is awarded to assist an economically dependent spouse to become "rehabilitated" following a divorce. Lump sum alimony, or Alimony In Solido, is a one time, lump sum payment by one spouse to the other which is usually to counteract an uneven distribution of property during a divorce.

In determining the type, amount, and length of an alimony award, the court considers several statutory factors. Alimony must be agreed to, or awarded, at the time of a divorce and cannot be sought after a divorce is granted.

FAQ: Criminal Law

I was arrested. What should I do?

No matter what you are arrested for, the most important thing you can do next is call an attorney. Everyone is entitled to legal representation. A qualified attorney can ensure your rights are protected and assist you in navigating the justice system to obtain the best possible resolution for your legal matter.

What should I do on the day of my court date?

You must appear in court on the date and time that was ordered unless you were formally excused. To ensure the process goes smoothly, it is wise to be on time, dress in business attire and bring anything you might need. Talking to your attorney the day before your court date can help ensure you are prepared.

Why challenge a traffic violation?

Speeding and other traffic violations may seem like minor infractions that don't have a major impact on your life. However, each traffic violation a person receives may put them closer to losing their license.

Each time you pay for a ticket instead of challenging it, you are technically convicted of that violation. When you are convicted of a traffic offense, it may add points to your license. In Tennessee, if you obtain enough points, your license may be suspended. Challenging traffic violations gives you a chance to keep points off your license.

Do I have to consent to a blood, breath or urine test if stopped for DUI?

No. You do not have to consent to any chemical analysis test. If you do refuse to submit to a test, it is important to understand that you will face charges for violating Tennessee's implied consent law, which states that anyone who drives a motor vehicle automatically consents to be tested for alcohol, drugs or both. The penalty for refusing to consent to a test is most often one year of license revocation.

How long will a DUI conviction stay on my record?

In Tennessee, DUI convictions cannot be expunged under any circumstances. This means a DUI conviction will remain on your record permanently.

Do I have rights when under interrogation by police?

Yes. You do have rights when you are being questioned by police, and it is wise to exercise them in order to avoid self-incrimination. When you are under interrogation, you have the right to remain silent. It is important to remember that police can use anything you say against you at any time. To protect yourself, it's best to say nothing.

You also have the right to legal representation. If you are under interrogation and you tell police that you would like to speak with an attorney, they must stop questioning you until your attorney is present.

What are my rights during a criminal proceeding?

As a defendant, you have many rights, which include but are not limited to:

  • The right to an attorney
  • The right to a speedy trial
  • The right to be presumed not guilty
  • The right to remain silent
  • The right to a jury trial in criminal court
  • The right to confront witnesses against you in court
  • The right to appeal a conviction if you are found guilty

A qualified attorney can help you fully understand your rights as a defendant and vigorously protect them.

We Are Ready To Help You

The attorneys of Peterson White are ready to guide you through the legal process, so you can move on with your life. To arrange a free consultation, please call our Knoxville-based law firm at 865-909-7246 or contact us online.