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Tennessee’s Novel Approach: Legislating Good Behavior

Think about it. What’s the biggest mistake people make during the divorce process? No, it’s not overlooking or improperly valuing certain assets. It’s simply behaving badly. While it’s easy to approach divorce with your heart and not your head, letting emotions rule can prolong a divorce, make it more costly and lead to settlements that are detrimental to both spouses. More importantly, the emotional scarring that inevitably results from such bad behavior can also take its toll on the children.

According to The Tennessean, the Tennessee State Legislature recently passed legislation intended to keep divorces from spiraling out of control - legislation that could eventually serve as a model for initiatives in other states. In most cases, the recently enacted law automatically puts into place a set of injunctions against the following activities as soon as a petition for divorce is filed:

  • Transferring, assigning, borrowing against, concealing or in any way dissipating or disposing, without the consent of the other party or an order of the court, of any marital property.

  • Voluntarily canceling, modifying, terminating, assigning or allowing to lapse for nonpayment of premiums any insurance policy [that] provides coverage to either of the parties or the children, or that names either of the parties or the children as beneficiaries.

  • Harassing, threatening, assaulting or abusing the other [party] and making disparaging remarks about the other to or in the presence of any children of the parties or to either party’s employer.

  • Relocating any children of the parties outside the state, or more than 100 miles from the marital home, except in the case of a removal based upon a well-founded fear of physical abuse against either the fleeing parent or the child.

While it remains to be seen whether the legislation will effectively limit irrational behavior, it recognizes the importance of “getting down to business” and not letting emotions rule the process. In divorce, knowledge trumps emotion, an important lesson that should not be learned the hard way.