Splitting the sheets is a dark, old-fashioned term many folks laughingly used to describe the division of property and income in a divorce, but few of those who have experienced a divorce find the process to be a laughing matter.
Tennessee law designates all property acquired by a couple during the marriage to be “marital property” and therefore subject to an “equitable” division by the Court if the parties are unable to agree. Money or property acquired by gift or inheritance by either spouse is generally excluded from the calculation. IRAs or 401(K)s and other retirement accounts, that we tend to think of as personal, are also included as marital assets to the extent that they were generated or accrued during the marriage. This often comes as a shock. Typically the divorce Court will look at several factors in dividing marital assets, including the parties’ ages, education, earning capacity, and any child custody issues in determining what an “equitable” division is in each circumstance.
Where there is a significant discrepancy in incomes, alimony may be awarded. Needless to say, one party’s status as “economically disadvantaged” can and most often will affect not only the award of alimony but also the division of marital assets and the responsibility for payment of debts incurred during the marriage.
Internet divorce forms are now commonplace, and “DIY divorce” kits are purchased by many who believe divorce to be that simple. If you are thinking that divorce is what you need (or just want!) think long and hard before you make that decision. Where bills of a household are barely paid with two incomes, the prospect of making ends meet with only one can be bleak. If divorce is unavoidable, consult an experienced attorney. An unpleasant surprise at the end of the process could cost much more than a visit to a lawyer who is well versed in this area of the law.
Jonathan C. Brown, Attorney at Law
101 Main Ave. S., Fayetteville, Tennessee