Contested Divorce with Kids

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A contested divorce with children is often the most hotly contested type of divorce. Many times in contested divorces it comes down to costs, and the parties reach an agreement when the cost of continued litigation exceeds what the parties are disputing. But how do you put a price on your children? This is why cases where parenting time is the contested issue are so likely to go trial, and it is so very important that you have an attorney that understands this so that they have set up the case in a way to ensure the best results possible should the case go to trial.

Since so many cases settle, many attorneys skip steps during the pendency of the litigation because they don’t think they are going to actually have to bring the case before the judge. This can have very tough results if the opposing side knows you have cut corners as they can force you into accepting bad deals out of fear of trying the case.  It is important for your attorney to know in advance how important the parenting schedule is to their client so they can address things accordingly.  You will need to keep very detailed notes leading up to your divorce if you think there is going to be a custody dispute.  This is because many times the determination of who is going to be the primary parent is going to hinge on something small because both of you have been actively involved with your child prior to the divorce.

Contested divorces with kids are different from a contested divorce without kids as follows:
– Requires additional steps before setting, such as parenting classes
– Requires different legal advice regarding co-habitating during the divorce and housing arrangements during the separation
– Requires strategic steps to be taken to set up the case sometimes a year or more in advance of trial depending on the parenting plan wishes of the client
– Involves child support calculations and additional property questions in a Marital Dissolution Agreement, relating to insurance, retirement, school costs, extracurricular activities, and upward and downward deviations where appropriate
– Involves creative thinking and problem solving due to get certain evidence before a judge without dragging your children into the middle of a court battle
– Sometimes requires skill in dealing with experts and third parties, such as Guardian Ad Litems and Child Therapists and Psychologists.
– Requires sound knowledge of the laws and where they are going, as they will be advising on an arrangement that may affect you and your family for the next eighteen years

Things to ask your divorce attorney at the consult if your divorce involves children:

  1. Have you tried any custody matters before?
  2. What do I need to be keeping track of?
  3. Are there any things I need to know that could harm my ability to be named primary residential parent?
  4. What does my judge historically order at trial for parenting plans?
  5. What will my judge not approve for a parenting plan settlement?
  6. Is there anything I can do now to get an advantage later?
  7. What can I afford in terms of contested custody litigation?  Am I going to run out of money if my spouse fights over the kids in the divorce?

Custody cases are the most judge specific divorces.  You can have a very different parenting result in a divorce with the exact same facts from county to county.  The current standard for parenting in divorces is “equitable division” so the Court does not default to equal parenting time.  Some judges prefer divorcing parents have equal time.  Other judges prefer divorcing parents have unequal time especially during the school year. 

Parenting Plans become even more complicated if one of the parties plan to move.  It is of the utmost importance that if you have a parenting dispute you consult a divorce attorney as soon as possible.  For more information, please contact our office at (615) 620-5848 or check out our sister website at


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Disclaimer:  This is not legal advice.  Although Attorney Morgan Smith is licensed in both Tennessee and the District of Columbia, family law is very state specific, and this information is based on Attorney Morgan Smith’s experience in Middle Tennessee, and specifically Nashville and Davidson County, Sumner County, Wilson County, Rutherford County, Williamson County, Cheatham County, and Robertson County.  If you have specific questions regarding your case, call the Law Office of Morgan Smith and Morgan will be happy to consult with you by phone at (615) 620-5848.