Family law consists of divorce, child custody, child support, modification, guardianship, conservatorship, and other legal areas.
Adoptions are also an important aspect.
We effectively litigate contested divorces, prepare uncontested and agreed divorces, and issues concerning the custody and support of minor children everyday.

Family Law encompasses divorce, child custody, and child support. Family law can also involve guardianships, adoptions, grandparent visitation, and other familial relationships. We represent clients in contested and uncontested family law matters everyday. The Law Office of J. Derreck Whitson is also convenient to Jefferson, Cocke, Sevier and Greene Counties and in the cities of Dandridge, Newport, Jefferson City, Greeneville, and Sevierville.

A divorce is the process to end a marriage and is started by a “complaint for divorce” that is filed by either the husband or wife. There may be very specific grounds for the divorce or because the husband or wife no longer desires to be married to the other. The grounds for a divorce are important aspects to consider for awarding the divorce, dividing marital property and debts, as well as awarding alimony, child custody and child support. Grounds for divorce vary and can include abuse, adultery, inhumane treatment, inappropriate marital conduct and other grounds. A divorce can also be granted to the parties because irreconcilable differences exist and each desires a divorce.

The amount of time a divorce takes varies, according to the facts of the divorce case and depending upon the contested family law issues. The Tennessee General Assembly enacted legislation that requires a complaint for divorce be filed a certain amount of time before any judge can enter a final decree or judgment of divorce. A divorce that does not involve child custody or child support issues can be approved within 60 days after the complaint is filed. A divorce that does involve child custody, child su pport or that otherwise requires a “permanent parenting plan” must be filed with the court for 90 days before a final decree of divorce can be granted by a judge.

A divorce can be either uncontested (agreed divorce) or contested. A divorce is “contested” if there remains any issue concerning the marital property, child custody, child support or alimony. For a divorce to be “agreed” or “uncontested,” both parties must agree on all issues. This includes division of marital property and debt, child custody and co-parenting, alimony or spousal support, and child support. If a divorce is contested, the courts require that the parties attend mediation before any tria l.

Mediation is a procedure that is less formal than a legal proceeding before a judge. The parties to a divorce (the husband and wife) meet with a licensed mediator to attempt a resolution to any contested issue. The parties’ respective attorneys are usua lly present to advise and guide the client, however, the divorce attorney’s role is important during this process and you should be represented by a lawyer during any mediation. The mediator can help the parties understand how the specific contested issu es affect the divorce as a whole. Most often, a mediation involves child custody, visitation, or a permanent parenting plan. These family law mediations can help the parties design a co-parenting schedule that works for the parents and the children The D erreck Whitson Law Office usually uses mediators that are also licensed attorneys so that our clients get results.

Child custody may be part of a divorce, post-divorce modification, or emergency circumstances. Child custody can also be contested or uncontested and requires careful planning to establish a co-parenting schedule that is in the best interest of the child or children. The child’s schedule as well as the schedules of the mother and father must be considered and other resources for caring for the child’s needs. Sometimes there can be extreme difficulties in setting the perfect co-parenting schedule that is wh y the best interests of the child is most important.

Sometimes a special guardian, called a guardian ad litem, is appointed by the court. This guardian is typically an attorney appointed by the judge. This attorney, or “GAL,” represents the best interes ts of the children and reports to the court as an advisor. The GAL does not act in the same adversarial capacity as an attorney representing the husband or wife and is therefore more neutral and should consider the divorce from the perspective of the fath er and mother. The GAL is concerned with what is best for the children and not best for any party. A person involved in any divorce, child custody or other family law matters should also understand that the GAL does not represent what the child wants, bu t rather what is in the child’s best interests.

Child support in Tennessee is now based on an “income share model.” The Tennessee General Assembly enacted new child support guidelines in order to establish a child support obligation. Each child support obligation is now calculated by according to a formula that assigns values to each parents’ gross monthly income, the amount of time that each parent spends with the children, and the amount each parent contributes to healthcare. The fo rmula also considers other children and other child support obligations that each parent may have.

Child support obligations become an order when entered by a child support judge. Failure to pay child support can result in contempt of court actions to compel the child support payments. It is important that you have a family law attorney to represent y ou in a divorce or other child custody matter. Child support contempt can result in jail time because the party obligated to pay support did not follow the court order.

Each case is different and should be handled with personal attention and aggressive representation. We will work hard to protect your rights and bring resolution to your charge or charges. With the help of my office staff and investigators, I am able to represent your needs with personal attention.

Trial preparation and strategy is complex and time consuming. You should schedule a consultation with me immediately to protect your rights.

Please contact me at 423-613-0160 to schedule an appointment today.