Chamber Rules

General Matters, Pretrial Matters, Trial Procedure, Contested Divorce Trials

I. Preliminary General Matters
II. Pretrial Matters
III. Trial Procedure
IV. Contested Divorce Trials


I. Preliminary General Matters

A. Scheduling – Refer to Section 4.02 of Rule 4 and Section 6.01 of Rule 6 of the Uniform Local Rules of Court for procedures regarding scheduling of cases. (add hyperlink to these sections)

B. Correspondence with the Court

For scheduling or rescheduling conferences, hearings or trials in Dyer County, you may call the Chancellor’s Administrative Assistant, Rita Leach (731-286-4350). For Lake County, call Ms. Leach or Nanette Cook (731-253-8926).

C. Telephone conference with the Court

The Court often handles conferences by telephone in emergency situations, or to accommodate attorneys schedules and out of county attorneys. The Chancellor will not discuss any aspect of a case with only one of the attorneys or litigants. Letters from parties will be returned to the sender or filed with the Clerk and Master, if appropriate. If a conference call is necessary, contact the Administrative Assistant to the Chancellor.

D. Telephone conferences with the Administrative Assistant

The Administrative Assistant will discuss scheduling and administrative matters with attorneys and pro se litigants, but not substantive matters or the merits of any litigation. The Administrative Assistant will not give legal advice to anyone.

E. The Chancellor’s Chambers

When not on the bench, Chancellor Childress uses his available time to review upcoming cases, have conferences with counsel, answer mail, signing orders, doing research, drafting rulings and a host of other duties.

F. Motions to Ascertain Status

The Court is happy to have any attorney or pro se litigant call or write and inquire as to the status of a case under advisement, particularly if the case has been under advisement over thirty days. You will not be penalized if you ask what the status is.

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II. Pretrial Matters

A. Scheduling Orders

Chancellor Childress may contact attorneys or pro se litigants and order a scheduling conference. Out of that conference will come a Scheduling Order which will govern several aspects of the case. The Order will generally be a timeline for completion of certain trial preparation items and will be followed unless excused or modified by the Court, or by Consent Order. The Court encourages counsel to agree on Scheduling Orders on their own initiative.

B. Cases pending for more than 18 months that has not been set for trial or had an appropriate scheduling order entered, may be labeled as a dormant case. A notice of dormant cases will be sent to counsel or pro se litigants, outlining the activities that must be taken. See Rule of the Uniform Local Rule of Court.

C. Continuances and Extensions

General Policy: The general policy of the Court is that trials may not be continued without the permission of the Court. The Court will entertain motions for continuances in open court, or in an emergency, by telephone conference.

D. Orders

1. At times, Chancellor Childress requires attorneys to submit orders setting forth his rulings. Orders submitted without the approval signature of all counsel will be held ten days prior to entry.

2. Orders should state the date on which the matter was heard. If there was no hearing, the order should reflect how the matter came before the court. A certificate of service shall be attached to every order unless inappropriate to do so, such as cases served by publication. The certificate of service should contain the name and address of the person to whom service is directed, rather than a general “service on all parties” certificate.

3. Orders authorizing service by publication should be supported by an affidavit from plaintiff setting forth what reasonable efforts were made to locate and serve actual process on the defendant.

4. All orders should be submitted to the clerk. An attorney requesting immediate attention or ex parte orders should be prepared to inform the clerk or Administrative Assistant of (1) the urgency, and (2) whether there is any opposition to the order.

F. Discovery

1. Discovery shall proceed in accordance with the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure and the Uniform Local Rules of Court unless modified by scheduling order or other order of the Court.

2. Discovery disputes shall be resolved by filing the appropriate motion.

G. Pretrial Briefs

1. Chancellor Childress welcomes pretrial briefs on legal issues and they are especially appreciated in complex cases.

H. Temporary Restraining Orders and Injunctions

1. Temporary restraining orders and injunctions will not be issued without adequate factual basis set forth in the pleading requesting same, sworn to or supported by, sworn affidavit of admissible evidence which is persuasive to the Court that the harm is irreparable and cannot be compensated by money damages or other relief.

2. The Court will hear a restraining order ex parte only if the requirements of Rule 65.03 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure are complied with.

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III. Trial Procedure

A. Trial Procedure

1. Contested cases

Trials are scheduled Monday through Friday 8:30 am until adjournment. Lunch is usually at noon, but may be adjusted to accommodate witnesses. Adjournment may be extended to accommodate a witness.

2. Uncontested cases

Uncontested cases may be heard any day court is in session at 8:30 a.m. or 1:00 p.m.

3. Default cases

Default divorces will be heard any day court is in session at 8:30 a.m. or 1:00 p.m. Testimony of the plaintiff and two corroborating witness is required. The Court is still required to make an equitable division of marital property, insure COBRA notice requirements are met, allocate separate property, consider requests for attorneys fees and approve, if applicable, parenting plans. If notice is defective or not timely, no hearing will be held.


B. Out of Town Parties

Chancellor Childress will allow out of town parties to testify by interrogatories in uncontested cases if cleared by the Court on advance, on motion. In all contested matters, the parties are required to appear before the Court.


C. Witnesses

Chancellor Childress will accommodate witnesses as much as possible. If it is necessary, a witness may be taken out of order, or even in the middle of an “in town” witness’ testimony.


D. Courtroom Decorum

1. Chancellor Childress expects each attorney to treat the Court as well as all other attorneys with respect, even in the midst of a heated legal argument. Attorneys should address the Court, rather than each other. Chancellor Childress will listen respectfully to each side, but does not expect one attorney to interrupt the attorney speaking until that attorney has completed their statement.

2. Litigants should be properly attired. The Court does not allow litigants to appear in shorts, tank tops, cut-up shirts, or wearing sunglasses, head covers or flip-flops. Exceptions will be allowed when circumstances require and with Court approval. No food or drinks are allowed in the courtroom. Water is furnished to counsel and participants. Attorneys are responsible for making their clients aware of these rules.

3. Cell phones should be in the “off” mode in the courtroom.


E. Exhibits

Exhibits should be handed to the court officer who will pass them to the witness. After identification and admission, they will be marked by the court reporter, or the court officer as the case may be. It is extremely helpful for the Court to have a copy of the document so it can follow along with the witness.

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IV. Contested Divorce Trials


A. Trial Procedure

Although not mandatory, your client’s divorce case will flow more smoothly if the order of proof follows the following pattern:

1. Grounds for divorce.

2. Parenting Plan and residential issues, if applicable.

3. Child support factors and worksheets, if applicable.

4. Separate and marital property.

5. Alimony issues, if applicable.

6. Other issues.

7. Application for award of attorneys fees.


B. Documents

1. The Court expects the parties to have (1) a proposed Parenting Plan and child support worksheets, if applicable; (2) and the agreement between the parties addressed in Section 14.02 of Rule 14 of the Uniform Local Rules of Court.

2. Where the income and expenses of a party are relevant, the Court expects to have this information available as required in Section 14.02 of the Uniform Local Rules of the Court.

3. The Court expects discovery to be completed prior to trial and will not allow counsel to engage in discovery during the trial.

4. If you have been requested in discovery to disclose documents, expert witness information and/or to name witnesses with relevant or discoverable evidence, and you fail to do so, do not expect the Court to allow the witnesses testimony, or the document into evidence over the timely objection of opposing counsel, absent extenuating circumstances.


C. Divorce Decrees and Orders

1. Preliminary orders should state the date of the hearing, and a description of the motion the order relates to.

2. All divorce decrees shall contain a section or paragraph that contains the following information:

a. The date the original complaint was filed.
b. How service or leading process was obtained.
c. How the acquired COBRA notice has been complied with.
d. Whether or not the parties have completed the parenting class if children are involved.
e. Date or dates of the trial or hearing.


D. New Language for Final Decree and Marital Dissolution Agreement

In 2009, the legislature enacted a statute requiring certain language reference allocation of joint debts to be put into every Final Decree and Marital Dissolution Agreement. It went into effect January 1, 2010. The language for the respective documents that is suggested by the Court is set forth below. Any Decree that does not contain the language will be returned to the preparer for inclusion of the language.

Language for Marital Dissolution Agreement:

The parties hereto certify that they understand that the agreements in this Marital Dissolution Agreement decree do not necessarily affect the ability of a creditor to proceed against a party, or a party’s property, even though the party is not responsible for an account or debt, and any debt associated with an account, or any debt under the terms of this Marital Dissolution Agreement and the Final Decree of Divorce. The parties also understand that it may be in a party’s best interest to cancel, close, or freeze any jointly held accounts.

Language for Final Decree:

The parties hereto have been advised that the agreements in their Marital Dissolution Agreement or the allocation of debts in this decree do not necessarily affect the ability of a creditor to proceed against a party, or a party’s property, even though the party is not responsible under the terms of their Marital Dissolution Agreement and/or this Final Decree of divorce for an account, and any debt associated with an account, or any debt. The parties have been notified that it may be in a party’s best interest to cancel, close, or freeze any jointly held accounts.

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