How Long Will My Divorce Last?

I am often asked “Scott, how long will my divorce take until it is completed?” The answer to that question depends upon how complicated your divorce is, but there are at least some minimum time periods that are easy to understand.

In Tennessee divorce, there is a waiting period for every divorce that is filed. In divorces without children, the waiting period is sixty days. In divorces with children, the waiting period is ninety days.

The waiting period means that, even if you and your spouse agree on every last detail, you cannot get divorced until at least that much time has passed.

One important note is that the waiting period does not start until the Complaint for Divorce is filed, which opens a file with your local court. If you hire a lawyer and it takes three weeks to prepare documents and file, those three weeks, which were used for preparation, will not count toward the waiting period!

If your case has been resolved at the time the waiting period expires, then your lawyer will submit the proper paperwork and your divorce will be completed when the judge signs your Final Decree of Divorce. This typically takes between a week to ten days.

If your case has not been resolved at the time the waiting period expires, then it is difficult to say how long your divorce will take. It depends on a number of things. If your case goes all the way to trial, your case may take several months, or even over a year.

Of course, the easiest way to know how long your case will take is to discuss all of the details of your case with an experienced divorce lawyer. I’m always happy to sit down with folks and share what I know about Rutherford County divorce cases.

Do I have to go to Court for an Agreed Divorce?

I am often asked “do I have to go to court in an agreed divorce, where we agree on everything?” The answer depends on a number of things, but the answer in Rutherford County divorce cases is often no.

In the past, whether or not parties had to go to court in Rutherford County to finish up an agreed divorce depended upon whether or not they had children. In agreed divorces with children, courts typically required at least one party to appear. In courts without children, however, courts would grant a divorce without the parties present, so long as the parties signed certain documents.

Rutherford County divorce courts recently announced a change to the longstanding policy regarding court appearances, which now allows all agreed divorces, even divorces where the parties have minor children, to be finalized without an appearance by the parties.

This is important because it means that, if you and your spouse agree to the terms of your divorce, you can both file your divorce and be awarded a divorce without either of you going to court.

If you and your spouse want to make the process as simple as possible, without either party having to go to court, the first, and most important, step is to consult with an experienced divorce lawyer.

Can Police Do That? Returns to MTSU

For the second year in a row, Murfreesboro Attorney Scott Kimberly will host an event titled “Can Police Do That?” at Middle Tennessee State University, which will discuss interaction with the police, constitutional rights, and a number of other hot topics in the legal field. The series is sponsored jointly by the MTSU College Democrats and the MTSU College Republicans.

The event is scheduled to take place on three consecutive Wednesday evenings, February 10, February 17, and February 24, at 7:00 p.m., at Room S-332 of the Business & Aerospace Building at Middle Tennessee State University. For details on subjects and locations, visit www.CanPoliceDoThat.com.

Scott will host the seminar with his father, retired criminal defense attorney Richard Kimberly. Combined, Scott and Richard have over thirty years of experience in criminal law and criminal justice.

A number of legal issues are exciting to the public. We want people to know their rights when interacting with police, but we also want to have an open discussion on issues that are both important and entertaining to the community. We hope to see you there!

Does It Help That I Have No Criminal History?

In Murfreesboro criminal cases, I am often asked “I have no criminal history, will that help my case?” The short answer is yes, having no criminal history will typically help your case.

Having no criminal history may help in negotiations with the District Attorney.
In Tennessee, prosecutors have discretion in whether to prosecute a case or to offer some sort of plea deal. Typically, when a defendant has no criminal history, that makes the District Attorney more likely to offer a favorable plea deal. However, there is no guarantee of a favorable offer.

For example, if someone is charged with possession of cocaine, the District Attorney is more likely to make an offer of reduced charges to someone with no criminal history than he is to make an offer of reduced charges to someone with an extensive criminal history.

Having no criminal history may make you eligible for Diversion.
One special process that is available to adults with no criminal history is Diversion. In Rutherford County, nearly every Diversion granted is Judicial Diversion, so I will explain the Judicial Diversion process here.

NOTE: There are two types of Diversion: Pre-Trial Diversion and Judicial Diversion.  Nashville Attorney Michael Shipman provides an excellent explanation of the two types of diversion here.

Under Judicial Diversion, a defendant can enter a conditional guilty plea; in other words, a guilty plea conditioned upon a certain agreement. If the defendant completes the terms of the agreement, he may then be able to have the charge expunged from his record forever. However, if the defendant fails to complete the terms of the agreement, then the diversion will be revoked and a guilty plea will be entered.

As mentioned before, the District Attorney has wide discretion in how to prosecute a case, and that includes whether or not to offer Judicial Diversion. A prosecutor is not required to offer Judicial Diversion.

In short, having no criminal history will help your case. You may receive a better offer than someone who has a lot of other crimes.

The Most Important Lessons from Making a Murderer (That No One Is Talking About)

The most talked about television series in the country is Netflix’s Making a Murderer. The documentary focuses on the 2007 trial of Steven Avery for the murder of Teresa Halbach. Since its release, the series has sparked international outrage at the handling of the Steven Avery murder trial, among other things.

As a criminal defense attorney, I am thrilled that Making a Murderer has made two things clear to the general public, neither of which is related to the Steven Avery murder trial.

Wrongful Convictions Exist (the Steven Avery Rape Trial).
In the first episode of Making a Murderer, the viewer learns that Steven Avery was convicted of rape in 1985, only to be proven innocent by DNA evidence after serving eighteen years in prison.

A wrongful conviction is the single most disturbing facet of the criminal justice system. If someone is wrongfully convicted, they lose the most treasured thing in life: freedom.

If nothing else, the wrongful conviction of Steven Avery provides a graphic depiction of an uncomfortable truth: wrongful convictions exist and, as a result, countless innocent men are currently sitting in jail for crimes they did not commit.

False Confessions Exist (the Brendan Dassey Interviews).
Early in the series, the viewer watches Brendan Dassey, Steven Avery’s sixteen year old nephew, sit through hours of police interrogation. In the end, Dassey confesses to the rape and murder of Teresa Halbach.

“Innocent men don’t confess,” the prosecutor in Brendan Dassey’s murder case told the jury in closing arguments. Unfortunately for Dassey, the overwhelming majority of the general public agrees that no one would confess to a crime that they did not commit.

The truth is that many people confess to crimes they did not commit. I can’t explain it, but the inconvenient truth is that false confessions exist.

Need proof? Read the case of Damon Thibodeaux. In 1996, Thibodeaux confessed in graphic detail to beating and murdering his cousin and then spent fifteen years on death row, only to be proven innocent by DNA evidence and ultimately released.

In Making a Murderer, Dassey confesses to police that he raped and stabbed Teresa Halbach and subsequently slit her throat. His next question? Whether he can make it back to school in time for sixth period. The viewer is left to conclude that this young man had no understanding of his own confession.

Conclusion
Countless news outlets, blogs, and television shows have weighed in on the Steven Avery murder trial. In my opinion, the greatest value in Making a Murderer has nothing to do with the Steven Avery murder trial.

Wrongful convictions exist.

False confessions exist.

Now the question is what society can do to prevent such devastating miscarriages of justice.