Part One: Reading the Documents – The Statutory Injunction
So you just got served with divorce papers. Now what? First, take a deep a breath. You have thirty days from the date of service to answer a complaint for divorce in Tennessee. Now, don’t just put the papers away and sit on them until day 29, but you have time to think about things and hire an attorney. Read the divorce complaint carefully and read all of the documents. Sometimes, your divorce papers include motion dates for expedited custody hearings, restraining orders, and other important documents. Tennessee divorces should all be served with something called a statutory injunction that restrains and enjoins all spouses going through a divorce from doing certain things. Your first focus should be to read this document carefully. The Restraining Order for Divorcing Spouses lays out a lot of important information, and can keep you from falling prey to false threats from your spouse or accidentally enraging the Judge before you even get started. So what are you restrained from doing?
1 – If you have kids, you are barred from taking the children outside of the state of Tennessee or from relocating more than 50 miles away
2 – You are barred from harassing or threatening your spouse, likewise your spouse is barred from harassing or threatening you
3 – You are barred from talking badly about your spouse in front of your kids or to their employer, and they are barred from speaking badly about you
4 – You are barred from destroying or hiding evidence, and so are they. This is called spoliation and if your spouse is found to have deliberately destroyed evidence you can get a presumption that all of that evidence would have been in your favor, so this is a very big deal
5 – You are barred from modifying or terminating any insurance policies, this includes health insurance and life insurance beneficiaries (note, you can still change your will!)
6 – You are not allowed to do anything to make marital assets worth less money, and you are not allowed to destroy or sell marital assets. That scene from the First Wives club where she sells everything off dirt cheap so he doesn’t get anything in the divorce? Not okay.
7 – You are barred from spending money on stupid useless things. You and your spouse should only be spending money to maintain the marital standard of living and your usual business expenditures. If you flew coach during the marriage, do not start flying first class on the marital savings during the separation.
Important note: no where on this TRO does it say you have to leave the home. If your spouse wants you out of the house, there will be a separated order that gives them the right to exclusive possession of the home. The Statutory Injunction is very important. If your spouse says they will cancel your car insurance policy if you don’t move out, you might not know they are barred from doing so unless you have read this document. Further, if your spouse has done some of these things in anticipation of the divorce, let your attorney know when you meet with them as they may want to immediately file a contempt or other injunction to stop your spouse from breaking the law without penalty.
If the Statutory Injunction is not included in your divorce documents, you can read the Davidson County form here.
Morgan Smith is an attorney licensed to practice in Tennessee and the District of Columbia. This contested divorce information is specific to the state of Tennessee. Tennessee law requires us to tell you that this is an advertisement. Please be advised this is opinion, and it is not intended to be relied upon as legal advice and this does not create an attorney client relationship. Each situation is different based on the facts of each client, so please contact and retain an attorney before taking any action.