Getting divorced has proven to be one of the top five most stressful life events, and for valid reasons. Divorce often takes a toll on you emotionally, mentally, and physically, not to mention financially. And, unfortunately, even your closest friends and family members can struggle to understand what you are going through or how to help you.
In addition to the life-disruption that a divorce causes, the divorce process itself is more-often-than-not full of paperwork, back-and-forth, and stress as you work to dissolve the marriage and turn over a new leaf.
But how does filing for divorce work? What needs to be done if you are planning to file for divorce?
You are eligible to file for divorce in Tennessee if you or your spouse have lived in the state for at least six months prior to filing a complaint. Another requirement is to define the reason for the divorce.
In order to file for a divorce in Tennessee, one of the following must apply:
- A spouse presents fault-based grounds for divorce (abuse, abandonment, neglent, substance abuse, adultery, criminal behavior or conviction, attempted murder, sterility).
- The couple agrees there was no fault by their spouse, but there are irreconcilable differences.
- The couple has lived separately for two years, and they have no minor children.
Note: You do not have to be separated from your spouse prior to filing. In other words, you can be living in the same household and, if you meet the eligibility criteria, still file for a divorce.
How to Filing for Divorce in TN
If you meet the requirements for a Tennessee divorce, then you can file the official complaint. However, the kind of divorce you are seeking will determine whether you want to do the work yourself or hire a divorce lawyer.
Filing An Uncontested Divorce
An uncontested divorce is fairly straightforward. In an uncontested divorce, the couple agrees on everything from the beginning: the reason for the divorce (whether fault or no-fault), dividing assets and debts, child custody, and any additional support. Because the couple agrees to the terms, there is no need for one party to prove fault or for the couple to resolve their differences in court.
When this happens, you merely need to go to the Circuit Court Clerk together to complete and file a divorce complaint, marital dissolution agreement, and agreed permanent parenting plan (for children under age 18). The Circuit Court also will charge a service fee to file your paperwork.
Filing A Contested Divorce
A contested divorce, on the other hand, is more difficult and time-intensive. This is often because one spouse is unwilling to agree to a divorce, or the couple simply cannot agree on the terms.
In a contested divorce, the filing and overall process requires:
- Filing the divorce complaint. You will need to apply and be prepared to give a basis for the divorce (no-fault or fault), any shared assets and debts, children, etc. Next, your complaint paperwork will need to be signed in front of a notary and filed with the Circuit Court Clerk, who will charge you a filing fee. (If your spouse lives in another county, you must file for divorce in that county, as well.)
- Serving your spouse. After filing your complaint with the Court Clerk, you will need to ask about hiring a server or sheriff’s deputy to deliver the official complaint and a summons to your spouse. When the paperwork is delivered, your spouse (or their attorney) must be willing to sign an acknowledgment that they received it. He or she will then have 30 days to file uncontested or present their counter-complaint. (Only if the deadline passes and your spouse has not filed an answer will the divorce proceed uncontested.)
- Negotiating. The next step, especially if your spouse disagrees with the complaint or the terms, is to negotiate. A discovery process typically begins to determine income, budgets, debts, assets, and other relevant information that need be considered in the negotiation. Some spouses agree to exchange discovery documents informally, but many hire a mediator or lawyer to help them reach a settlement.
- Continuing settlement & custody efforts, and perhaps going to trial. Most spouses try to reach an out-of-court settlement to avoid the costs and emotional turmoil of going to trial. Divorce cases that cannot be settled through mediation, however, tend to result in a court trial in which evidence and contested issues must be presented to a judge. The judge ultimately determines the division of property, child custody, child support, alimony, etc. On-going settlement efforts or a trial only draw-out the divorce timeline.
Our Advice? Hire A Lawyer
If you plan to file for divorce, it is likely not going to be easy. Rather than carry the burden alone, hiring a divorce lawyer to help guide you through the process – and to protect your rights – can make all the difference. In fact, statistics show that more than 60% of cases mediated by a lawyer(s) will settle during the mediation period or before trial.
When it comes to expediting your divorce, advocating for your best interests, and answering your questions regarding your children, trust The Cassell Firm.
Contact us today.