The Tennessee Legislature has been busy lately trying to remodel certain statutory provisions in the realm of divorce and other family law issues. I have summarized two for you here.
First, Senate Bill 0721 (by Woodson, B.) and companion House Bill 1106 (by Johnson, C.), was signed by the Governor on April 14, 2011. This change mandates that a court can hold an expedited hearing on the temporary modification of a parenting plan if there is a "mobilized parent" (armed forces service member who is active duty or obtains orders for duty outside the state or country). This change would also allow the court to take testimony from that parent via telephone if they are not in the state at the time. Also changing is that a court can permanently modify a parenting plan if there is a parent who volunteers for duties that require the parent to be outside the state frequently.
Second, Senate Bill 1172 (by Berke) and companion bill House Bill 0714 (by Brooks, H. and Hardaway), was transmitted to the Governor for action on April 13, 2011. This bill clarifies that "dissipation of assets," a relevant factor that trial courts must consider in making a equitable division of marital property in a divorce case, means "wasteful expenditures made either before or after the marriage is determined to be irretrievably broken that are not consistent with spending patterns during the marriage or that are made for purposes unrelated to the marriage, unless the other spouse condones or fails to object to the expenditures that were known or reasonably could have been known." This places a new burden on the non-spending spouse to object during the course of litigation to known expenditures by the other spouse. This bill would also direct a trial court, when considering a spouse's right to alimony or child support, to not consider as income any distributions received from retirement accounts under the court's property division order.