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Tennessee Divorce Process
Preparing the Divorce Papers
The plaintiff in the divorce case completes all necessary documents for filing.
Filing the Paperwork with the Court
After making at least two copies, the petitioner takes the divorce papers to the clerk of court in the county where both spouses live, the county where the estranged spouse lives now, or the county where the plaintiff lived when the parties separated.
The spouses split the cost of filing for divorce. If the parties are unable to pay the fee required to file the papers, then the petitioner may file a Request to Postpone Filing Fees and Order. If the request is approved, the petitioner does not pay filing fees at the time of filing but may be required to pay them at the end of the case.
The petitioner must also ask the clerk of court for a Divorce Certificate, which carries a deadline.
Finally, the clerk assigns a case number that identifies all divorce forms.
The petitioner waits at least 60 days after filing a Request for Divorce and then schedules the Final Divorce Hearing. The clerk may require the completion of an additional form to set the hearing date. If needed, the petitioner completes a Notice of Hearing to Approve Irreconcilable Differences Divorce and mails a copy to his or her spouse.
The petitioner appears in court at the scheduled date and time and brings copies of the divorce papers. It is best if both spouses appear at the divorce hearing in case of mistakes in the forms; however, only the filing spouses appearance is required to appear.
At the hearing, the petitioner answers the judges questions about the marriage, separation, and other items on the paperwork. If the judge approves the divorce, and the respondent was not at the hearing, the petitioner mails him or her a copy of the Divorce Order.
After the Final Divorce Order is issued, each spouse has 30 days to appeal the order, which means that both must wait 30 days to get married or buy property. If the petitioner waits more than 180 days after the last person signed the Divorce Agreement, the petitioner needs to file a new form.
Serving the Documents
The petitioner normally serves the divorce complaint on the respondent by using the countys sheriffs department, using a private process server, or sending by mail if he or she signs an acknowledgement of service of process.
Disclosing Financial Information
The judge or chancellor may require that the parties submit a personal financial affidavit detailing their current income and expenses and interests in real property and personal property. This means income from all sources, including salary, wages, bonuses, commissions, tips; deductions, such as court-ordered child support, court-ordered alimony, FICA, taxes, Medicare payments, union dues, mandatory retirement payments, health insurance premiums as well as assets and liabilities.
Uncontested vs. Contested Divorce
The basic procedure for a divorce based on irreconcilable differences requires filing the divorce with the court; preparing and signing a Marital Dissolution Agreement; preparing a Permanent Parenting Plan, if there are minor children; attending a hearing in court to determine if the agreement meets Tennessee Law; and the court issuing a Final Divorce Decree is issued
For a contested divorce, the routine requires the filing of the divorce papers and notice to the other spouse, who then files an Answer. Both sides then do discovery, which means depositions, interrogatories, and fact finding, in preparation for a trial and eventually a final decree is issued that grants or denies divorce.
Finalizing the Divorce
The minimum statutory waiting period for a divorce based on irreconcilable differences is 60 days after filing if there are no unmarried minor children and 90 days after filing if the couple have unmarried, minor children.
There is no statutory minimum waiting period when fault grounds are used.
In general, a mutual-consent, no-fault divorce typically takes from two to six months. Most of that time is spent assembling the needed information about the marital residence, debts, retirement, and other financial details and later in negotiation. When there are children, it may take longer for the parents to reach an agreement about a permanent parenting plan and child support. If the parties can agree to a settlement quickly, then the divorce can be granted as soon as the required minimum length of time expires.
Contested divorces generally take from six months to two years to complete because of motions, discovery, and trial. A divorce for irreconcilable differences costs less and moves more quickly.
The grounds to file a complaint for a legal separation are the same as for a divorce. The court can address child custody, visitation, support, and property issues during legal separation upon motion by either party or by agreement of the parties. The court has the power to grant an absolute divorce to either party if there has been an order of legal separation for more than two years, the parties have not reconciled, and either party files a petition for an absolute divorce.
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