When many of us think of divorce, we think of the big cinematic fights, thick manilla envelopes tossed on countertops, and utter chaos. But the reality is that divorce probably won’t look like that for many people. In fact, many couples looking to separate may not even know how to get a divorce in Tennessee. Luckily, Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC has all the details for your divorce needs.
Filing a Complaint – Divorce in Tennessee
The first step to getting a divorce in Tennessee is to file a complaint. The person who files the complaint, or petition for divorce, first is called the plaintiff. In addition to the complaint, the state also requires that a certificate of divorce also be filed.
Upon filing both required petitions, the Clerk of Court will issue a summons. The divorce formally begins when the other spouse has been served the summons and the complaint.
- Residents of Davidson, Williamson, and Shelby counties, a sheriff’s deputy or a private process server will serve the Complaint and Summons on the other spouse.
- Divorce papers can also be served via mail. The individual being served will receive a Waiver of service of Process, which acknowledges that they have received the divorce suit.
There are certain criteria that must be met for a divorce to be granted. This can include place of residence for the last six months, if you are expecting a child together, etc.
Answer and Counter-Complaint
Once the other individual has been served the divorce complaint, the next step in the process is the answer and counter-complaint.
In this step of the process, most recipients of the original complaint about divorce will answer and file a countersuit, known as the counter-complaint. This does the same thing as the original complaint, but against the original plaintiff.
In most cases, the counter-complaint will deny any allegations made in the original complaint and request the complaint be dismissed. It will also request similar action as was requested by the plaintiff.
Many divorce complaints request no-fault grounds. However, there are other forms of divorce in Tennessee. They include:
- Agreed divorce
- No-fault divorce
- Divorce based on fault-grounds
In an agreed divorce, both individuals agree to the following and qualify for a simplified version of divorce:
- Both have lived in Tennessee for at least six months
- They have no shared children who are under 18, disabled, or still in high school
- They are not expecting a child
- Both want to end the marriage
- The couples do not co-own buildings, land, a business, or retirement benefits
- Both agree on alimony and how property will be divided
- Both agree to sign the Divorce Agreement
In a no-fault divorce, there is nothing to prove, just that the couple is no longer compatible.
In a fault-divorce, the process can become quite complicated because there needs to be proof that misconduct occurred which caused the couple to break up.
In most Tennessee divorces, the couple will allege no-fault grounds. Depending on the type of divorce being contested will determine the next course of action which in many cases is a settlement. However, in fault-divorces, the divorce will most likely go to trial.
If the couple decides to not go into a settlement right away, the next phase is discovery. This process begins with filing Interrogatories, which are questions that must be answered under oath. In addition, a request for production of documents will also be required.
Other forms of discovery include depositions, subpoenas, and Requests for Admissions. Depending on how the parties respond determines how quickly the discovery process will go, and how much it will cost the couple. This is dependent on the side of the marital estate in most cases.
Final Divorce Hearing
Once forms have been filed, documents approved and any mediation has occurred, you can file for your final divorce hearing. This is common in no-fault divorces where the couple has likely agreed to terms without legal action and their respective attorneys have walked them through the terms of the divorce.
At the final hearing, a judge will review all forms, ask any questions that may arise, and approve the divorce. While only the plaintiff must attend the hearing, it is best both individuals attend so the process can occur without issue and any flaws in documentation can be handled.
Once the hearing is over, any appeal may be made within 30 days.