Memphis Family Law, Divorce, Custody, & Juvenile Court Lawyers
Compassionate & Experienced Advocates in the Memphis Metropolitan Area
At Dowden, Worley, Jewell & Olswing, PLLC, we have experienced attorneys who can guide you through every aspect of the legal system when it comes to family law. Our firm represents individuals from all walks of life. Whether you are a self-employed business owner, corporate executive, medical professional, professional athlete, stay-at-home parent, retiree, white-collar office worker, or an hourly wage earner, you can expect knowledgeable and aggressive representation in and out of the courtroom.
If you want to avoid the courtroom, our attorneys can help settle your case outside the courtroom by utilizing mediation or by attempting to negotiate a just and fair settlement with your spouse and their attorney. Many of our attorneys are trained mediators who have mastered the art of negotiation and mediation. We are firm believers in negotiation and the mediation process.
Juvenile law and Juvenile Court can be particularly challenging to navigate for both lawyers and nonlawyers and navigating the Juvenile Court system is not for the faint of heart. The attorneys at Dowden, Worley, Jewell, & Olswing, PLLC have the knowledge and experience to assist you with all aspects of Juvenile Court and juvenile law.
The attorneys at Dowden, Worley, Jewell, & Olswing, PLLC stand ready, willing, and able to provide you an honest, experienced opinion about your situation and options in all areas of family law and Juvenile Court.
Let us help you with the following situations:
- Contested and uncontested divorces
- Child support and alimony issues
- Child custody, visitation, and parenting plans
- Juvenile Court
- Adoptions, termination of parental rights, dependency, and neglect,
- Modifications of final decree of divorce, child support, and parenting plans
- Contempt of court actions
- Paternity and legitimation
- Family law litigation
- Orders of protection
- Prenuptial agreements
- Parental abduction and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act
The Divorce Process
Many people come to our office and have no idea what a divorce case entails or what needs to be done to start a divorce. Tennessee law requires that you live in the state for at least six months before filing for divorce. There are some, but very few, exceptions to this rule.
When filing for divorce, your attorney will need specific information from you. This information will include but will not be limited to the following:
(1) You, your spouse, and your children’s full names
(2) Your address and your spouse’s address
(3) You, your spouse, and your children’s social security numbers
(4) You, your spouse, and your children’s dates of birth
(5) The date of your marriage, where you were married, and the date of your separation from your spouse
(6) You or your spouse’s maiden name
(7) You and your spouse’s place of birth — both the name of the city and state. If one of you were born out of the country, we will need the name of the city and the country.
(8) If you have children, you will need to have each address your children have lived at in the last five years.
(9) A list of all your debts
(10) A list of your assets, including bank accounts, vehicles, boats, cars, motorcycles, investment accounts, and retirement accounts
You and your spouse can get a divorce but still live together while the divorce is pending if you do not continue to have sexual relations with each other. If there is domestic violence, we suggest that you not live with your spouse during the divorce process. You may need an Order of Protection; we will discuss this with you at your initial consultation.
After meeting with us and retaining us, we will prepare a Complaint for Divorce to be filed with the Court. A Complaint for Divorce is the document that officially starts the divorce process. The Complaint for Divorce has to be served on your spouse, or your spouse can arrange to pick it up at our office.
When a divorce is filed in Tennessee, in all divorces, except divorces on the grounds of irreconcilable differences, the Court automatically issues Mandatory Injunctions that prohibit the parties from the following:
A. Each party is restrained and enjoined from transferring, assigning, borrowing against, concealing or in any way dissipating or disposing of any marital property without the consent of the other party or an order of the Court.
B. Expenditures from current income to maintain the marital standard of living and usual and ordinary costs of operating a business are not restricted by this injunction. Each party shall maintain records of all expenditures, copies of which shall be available to the other party upon request.
C. Each party is restrained and enjoined from voluntarily canceling, modifying, terminating, assigning, or allowing to lapse for non-payment of premiums, any insurance policy including, but not limited to life, health, disability, homeowners’, renters’, and automobile, where such insurance policy provides coverage to either of the parties or the children, or that names either of the parties of the children as beneficiaries, without the consent of the other party or an order of the Court. "Modifying" includes any change in beneficiary status.
D. Each party is restrained from harassing, threatening, assaulting, or abusing the other and from making disparaging remarks about the other in the presence of any children of the parties or to either party's employer.
E. Each party is restrained and enjoined from hiding, destroying, or spoiling, in whole or in part, any evidence electronically stored or on computer hard drives or other memory storage devices.
F. Each party is restrained from removing the children of the parties from the State of Tennessee, or more than 50 miles from the marital home, without the permission of the other party or an order of the Court, unless in the case of a removal based upon well-founded fear of physical abuse against either the fleeing parent or the child. In such cases, upon request of the non-relocating parent, the Court will conduct an expedited hearing, by phone conference, if appropriate, to determine the reasonableness of the relocation and to make such other orders as appropriate.
After your spouse is served with the Complaint for Divorce, he or she has 30 days to respond or hire an attorney. The divorce process can be very complex or very simple. Most divorces end up being somewhere in between; if you retain an attorney from Dowden, Worley, Jewell & Olswing, PLLC, the divorce process will be explained to you in depth after we have gathered information from you and/or your spouse. Helping you achieve your goals during and after the divorce is paramount to us.
If you are concerned about finances or how you will support yourself or your children during the divorce process, we know how to file and obtain temporary support for you. If you are the primary breadwinner of the family, we can assist you in making sure any temporary support you are required to pay is fair and just under the circumstances. Tennessee has guidelines for determining how much child support should be paid by one parent to another but there are no hard and fast rules for setting spousal support.
The issues that must be decided in a divorce case are:
- Alimony/spousal support
- Property division (real property, bank accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts, etc.)
- Child support
- Parenting plan
- Division of debts
- Division of personal property
- Attorney fees
- Court costs
- Health insurance for dependent spouse
Child Custody in Tennessee
One of the most important issues in a divorce with children is determining child custody. Several years ago, the State of Tennessee changed the law, and we no longer use the words “child custody.” The proper terminology in Tennessee is “primary residential parent and alternate residential parent.” Though the terminology has changed, we still have to determine who the child or children live with the majority of the time. Sometimes, children live equal amounts of time with each parent. No matter what terms we use, the residential schedule for the children is to be determined by what is in the best interest of the children. This residential schedule is set out, in detail, in a Permanent Parenting Plan, which is an order of the Court.
Courts are to consider parenting arrangements that permit both parents to enjoy the maximum participation possible in the child’s life. In determining what is in the best interest of the children and a residential parenting schedule, the Court will look at many factors, including the following:
- The strength, nature, and stability of the child's relationship with each parent, including whether one parent has performed the majority of parenting responsibilities relating to the daily needs of the child;
- Each parent's or caregiver's past and potential for future performance of parenting responsibilities, including the willingness and ability of each of the parents and caregivers to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and both of the child's parents, consistent with the best interest of the child. In determining the willingness of each of the parents and caregivers to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and both of the child's parents, the court shall consider the likelihood of each parent and caregiver to honor and facilitate court-ordered parenting arrangements and rights, and the court shall further consider any history of either parent or any caregiver denying parenting time to either parent in violation of a court order;
- Refusal to attend a court-ordered parent education seminar may be considered by the court as a lack of good faith effort in these proceedings;
- The disposition of each parent to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, education, and other necessary care;
- The degree to which a parent has been the primary caregiver, defined as the parent who has taken the greater responsibility for performing parental responsibilities;
- The love, affection, and emotional ties existing between each parent and the child;
- The emotional needs and developmental level of the child;
- The moral, physical, mental, and emotional fitness of each parent as it relates to their ability to parent the child;
- The child's interaction and interrelationships with siblings, other relatives, and step-relatives, and mentors, as well as the child's involvement with the child's physical surroundings, school, or other significant activities;
- The importance of continuity in the child's life and the length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment;
- Evidence of physical or emotional abuse to the child, to the other parent, or to any other person. The court shall, where appropriate, refer any issues of abuse to Juvenile Court for further proceedings;
- The character and behavior of any other person who resides in or frequents the home of a parent, and such person's interactions with the child;
- The reasonable preference of the child if 12 years of age or older. The court may hear the preference of a younger child upon request. The preference of older children should normally be given greater weight than those of younger children;
- Each parent's employment schedule, and the court may make accommodations consistent with those schedules; and
- Any other factors deemed relevant by the court.
While Circuit, Chancery, and General Sessions courts handle divorces with children, the Tennessee Juvenile Courts have exclusive jurisdiction over children born out of wedlock, children who are dependent, and neglected and delinquent children. Child support can also be handled by the Juvenile Courts in Tennessee.
Juvenile Courts deal with a number of issues, such as juvenile delinquency and criminal offenses committed by juveniles, but in the realm of family law, Juvenile Courts handle cases concerning dependency and neglect, child abuse, child support, the custody and visitation of children born out of wedlock, establishing parentage, and sometimes, the termination of parental rights and adoption of minors.
Juvenile Courts are not open to the public, and all proceedings in Juvenile Court are confidential.
Juvenile law is very complex and can be mindboggling for someone who is not familiar with the law. In certain types of cases, parents are entitled to a court-appointed lawyer and children are entitled to a court-appointed Guardian Ad Litem. A Guardian Ad Litem is an attorney appointed by the Court to investigate and represent the best interest of the child in Juvenile Court. One cannot hire a Guardian Ad Litem for their own child, but a parent does not have to accept a court-appointed attorney and can choose to hire a private attorney to represent them in Juvenile Court. Several of the attorneys at Dowden, Worley, Jewell & Olswing, PLLC have served as court-appointed lawyers in the Juvenile Court. Most of the family law attorneys at Dowden, Worley, Jewell & Olswing, PLLC have practiced extensively in Juvenile Court and are familiar with the law and juvenile procedures.
Contact Dowden, Worley, Jewell & Olswing, PLLC Today
Our attorneys are experienced litigators that can represent you in a simple, uncontested divorce or a full-blown divorce or parenting plan/custody case that is heading toward a trial. If you are dealing with a family law issue in Memphis, the Memphis metropolitan area, West Tennessee, or North Mississippi, contact an attorney at Dowden, Worley, Jewell & Olswing, PLLC. Experience is important, and we have that experience. We have experience that counts.
The attorneys at Dowden, Worley, Jewell & Olswing, PLLC understand the need for an efficient and stress-free divorce, and they can help you obtain an affordable uncontested divorce. Please see the page titled “Affordable Uncontested Divorce.”
We take the time to properly evaluate your goals and your situation. We strategize and look at creative solutions to resolve your legal situation in order to achieve the best possible outcome. We aim to achieve optimal results for you within the bounds of our ethics and the law. We are problem solvers.
We like people and we like communicating with people. We will not avoid communicating with you or opposing counsel. We will provide guidance and communication throughout your entire case to make sure you are informed. Many times, our lawyers and our entire staff will know your name and your situation. We work closely with each other in the office and share ideas, theories and we discuss the law and changes in the law on a regular basis. We will communicate with you about the possible outcomes in your situation so that you can make an informed decision.
We are a diverse group of lawyers who work hard, but who are also very family oriented. We believe this is what helps us to better understand the impact your legal decisions will make on your life. We each strive to achieve a healthy work/life balance as this makes us better lawyers.