Court records show that Rodney Atkins' thought-to-be-solid marriage crumbled quickly after his wife had him arrested the morning of Nov. 21, claiming he had tried to smother her with a pillow after a night-long argument, part of which their 10-year-old son, Elijah, allegedly witnessed.
Until Atkins' arrest, he was lavish in praise of his wife and child and often brought them to industry events that celebrated his recording successes. They also figured prominently in some of his music videos.
According to police records, Tammy Jo McDonald Atkins called 911 at 7:47 a.m. on Nov. 21, soon after which police in Williamson County (a suburb of Nashville) arrested Atkins on domestic assault charges.
At 3:08 p.m. the next day, Atkins' attorney filed a complaint for divorce in Williamson County Chancery Court.
According to the complaint "the parties are experiencing irreconcilable differences in their marriage." Those differences have yet to be spelled out.
Atkins and McDonald were married in Williamson County on April 26, 1998, less than a year after the singer charted his first single -- "In a Heartbeat" -- on Curb Records.
The complaint said both parties "anticipate entering a marital dissolution agreement and permanent parenting plan."
Atkins asked that the court award him an "absolute divorce" from his wife and that he be "restored to all the rights and privileges of an unmarried person."
Congruent with the filing, the court issued a temporary restraining order for both parties that forbids them from tampering in any way with their common "marital property" and ordered each party to keep and make available to each other records of their expenditures.
Furthermore, both Atkins and his wife were restrained from canceling, modifying, assigning or allowing any of their insurance policies to lapse and forbidden to relocate their child outside Tennessee or more than 100 miles from their residence without the court's consent.
Atkins' wife responded to his complaint for divorce on Nov. 29 and agreed their marriage was irreconcilable.
She further charged that Atkins "has been guilty of such inappropriate marital conduct as renders further co-habitation unsafe and improper." She asked that she be awarded "care, custody and control" of their child and that the court make an "equitable distribution" of the marital property and debts between the two.
Finally, she asked for alimony and child support, both pending litigation and permanently.
On Dec. 5, Atkins filed an answer in Chancery Court to his wife's counter complaint for an absolute divorce.
In it, he reaffirmed the irreconcilability of the situation but "denies that he is guilty of inappropriate marital conduct." He asked that his wife's counter complaint be dismissed and the costs of the action charged to his wife.
On Dec. 6, Atkins filed an amended and supplemental motion to his original complaint in which he argued that both parties are "fit and proper persons to be designated joint residential custodians" of their child and asked that the court designate both parties as such.
He further requested that the court establish child support obligations.
In the amended document, Atkins said the court should require him to "maintain health insurance coverage for the benefit of [Elijah], with all uncovered medical, dental, orthodontic, eye care and other health-related expenses being paid by the parties equally."
A hearing on the amended part of Atkins' motion is expected to be held in Chancery Court on Tuesday (Dec. 20) at 9 a.m.
A statement issued to the media by Atkins' lawyer, Rose Palermo, characterized the Nov. 21 argument that led to Atkins' arrest as "an unfortunate verbal dispute" and denied there was any assault involved.