THE CONTESTED DIVORCE PROCESS
What is a “no-fault” divorce?
In Tennessee, parties can obtain a divorce on the grounds of “irreconcilable differences”. Said process does not require the parties to prove fault or misconduct by the other party and can be granted by agreement between the parties. The parties must enter into an agreement regarding all issues in their divorce, including specific terms relating to their minor children and property.
Where do I file for divorce?
In Tennessee, if a party has been residing in the state for in excess of six months, the divorce is filed in the county of the parties' residence. The divorce action may be filed in the county of the residence of husband or wife.
What do I do if I am served with divorce papers?
Read all pleadings received carefully. A party has thirty days from the date of service to file a response to the complaint for divorce. However, the pleadings may reference a court date for a temporary hearing or restraining order, which can occur prior to the expiration of the thirty day period. It is very important to obey the orders of the court.
When will we go to court?
The first court appearance in a contested divorce is typically necessary to resolve issues on a temporary basis. If a party cannot agree to issues such as financial support, use of property, control of the marital residence or a residential schedule for their minor children, the judge will issue temporary orders which will be in effect until the divorce is final.
How long will it take me to get divorced?
If the spouses can agree upon the terms of the divorce, and the divorce is granted on irreconcilable differences, the divorce can be granted after the expiration of a sixty day period if there are no minor children, and a minimum of ninety days must lapse if there are minor children.
If the spouses cannot agree to a settlement, a trial is necessary, and it can take months or even more than one year to complete the necessary steps to resolve a divorce through trial. Mediation is required by most counties prior to having a trial. Further, in preparation for trial, an experienced and thorough attorney will conduct discovery in an efforts to apprise their client of all information relating to the marital estate and any other issues before the court and in preparation for trial.
What is mediation?
Mediation is a confidential settlement session in which a neutral person trained in dispute resolution meets with the parties and their attorneys and attempts to help them reach an agreement on disputed issues. If no agreement can be reached, nothing discussed in mediation can be used in trial. If a settlement is reached, a settlement agreement is drafted and signed by the parties and their attorneys and binds the parties to a resolution.
A divorce is uncontested if both spouses agree to all issues of property, debt, support and any child custody issues. An uncontested divorce saves a lot of stress, time, and money for both spouses.
What issues can be resolved in an uncontested divorce?
All issues can be resolved in an uncontested divorce, if the parties agree. The agreement relating to all property issues is reduced to writing in a “marital dissolution agreement” and all child related matters are reduced to writing in a “parenting plan”. The agreement is filed and approved by the court, which is enforceable by the court if a party fails to comply with the terms of the agreement.
Do both spouses need an attorney?
In uncontested divorces, usually only one of the spouses hires an attorney to prepare the legal documents. However, a lawyer can never represent both sides in a divorce. Once one party has an attorney draft all the legal documents, the other spouses is required to read and sign the papers. It is sometimes helpful, but not necessary, for the other spouse to contact an attorney to obtain legal advice and review the settlement agreement.
How long does an uncontested divorce take?
If the divorce is uncontested, the court will grant the divorce on “irreconcilable differences”, which is a no fault divorce. The divorce can be granted after the expiration of a minimum sixty day period following the date of the filing of the complaint for divorce, if there are no minor children. A minimum of ninety days must lapse from the date of the filing of the complaint for divorce, if there are minor children. An uncontested divorce can take longer to finalize, if the parties are unable to reach an agreement in the time specified and cannot be resolved without an agreement between the parties.
Do I have to appear in court?
In Tennessee, the parties must appear in court to have the terms of an uncontested divorce approved by the court. In some counties, such as Rutherford County, the court may waive the appearance of the parties in a divorce wherein the parties submit an affidavit requesting the court waive their appearance.
In Tennessee, child support is set based upon a comparative income analysis. The factors considered in setting support is each parties' respective incomes, the number of days each parent spend with the child or children, the costs of work related childcare expenses incurred for the minor child or children, the costs of the medical insurance premium directly attributable to the minor child or children, whether either party are supporting other children, and other factors which may be considered by the court. The child support is calculated by a spreadsheet which can be downloaded at http://www.state.tn.us/humanserv/is/isdownloads.html.