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Contested Divorce in Tennessee — What to Expect

The process of divorce is typically an emotionally draining experience. It can also be time-consuming and costly. An uncontested divorce can decrease the emotional toll and reduce the time and money devoted to the divorce process; however, sometimes it is impossible to avoid a contested divorce. If you anticipate a contested divorce, you undoubtedly want to know what that means. With that in mind, a Murfreesboro contested divorce attorney at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby discusses what to expect from a contested divorce in Tennessee.divorce attorney

What Makes a Divorce a Contested Divorce?

Like most states, Tennessee offers both a contested and uncontested option for couples seeking a divorce. To proceed with an uncontested divorce, the parties must agree on all issues involved in the divorce. A divorce becomes a contested divorce if the parties cannot agree on any of the issues, such as:

  • The grounds on which the divorce is to be granted
  • Legal custody of the children
  • Who will be the Primary Residential Parent (PRP)
  • Parenting schedule
  • Child support
  • Alimony
  • Division of assets and debts

Proving Grounds for a Contested Divorce

Tennessee offers a no-fault option for uncontested divorces in which the parties simply allege “irreconcilable differences.” In an uncontested divorce, the parties need only agree that the marriage no longer works. If you (or your spouse) decide to allege fault-based grounds for the divorce, the party alleging fault must ultimately prove those allegations. Tennessee offers 13 fault grounds for a contested divorce, including:

  • Adultery
  • Habitual drunkenness drug abuse
  • Living apart for two years with no minor children
  • Inappropriate marital conduct
  • Willful or malicious desertion for one full year without a reasonable cause
  • Conviction of a felony
  • Pregnancy of the wife by another before the marriage without the husband’s knowledge
  • Refusal to move to Tennessee with your spouse and living apart for two years
  • Malicious attempt upon the life of another
  • Lack of reconciliation for two years after the entry of a decree of separate maintenance
  • Impotency and sterility
  • Bigamy
  • Abandonment or neglect

What Is the Process for a Contested Divorce in Tennessee?

To initiate the divorce process, one spouse (the “Plaintiff”) must file a Complaint for Absolute Divorce and a Summons with the appropriate court. The other spouse (the “Defendant”) is required to file a response within thirty days of service of process. The Complaint must contain certain things, including statutory grounds for filing the divorce in Tennessee, the grounds on which the Plaintiff is requesting the divorce, and what the Plaintiff wants out of the divorce. If the Defendant files an Answer, the Answer must address the allegations in the Complaint by admitting or denying each allegation.  The Defendant may also file a Counter-Complaint that contains his/her own allegations. If either the Answer or the Counter-Complaint does not agree with the original Complaint, the divorce is a contested divorce.

Once it is established that a divorce is contested, the parties will engage in “Discovery.” Discovery is a civil litigation process that allows each side to request information from the other side to determine the strengths and weaknesses of their case. Information is gathered through Requests for Production of Documents and Things, Interrogatories, Depositions, and/or Evaluations (physical or mental). 

The court may order the parties to participate in mediation to try and resolve some of the contested issues. Mediation involves a neutral third party (usually an attorney with specialized training) who tries to find common ground that will allow the parties to resolve issues without the need for a trial. If any (or all) of the issues are resolved through mediation, the parties will submit an agreement to the court for approval. If any contested issues remain after mediation, the divorce will proceed to trial.

If a contested divorce goes to trial, both sides will present evidence and testimony in support of their position on the contested issue(s) and the judge will decide how they are resolved. A contested divorce in Tennessee will typically take over a year to reach the trial stage and can be very costly, providing ample incentive to try and reach an out-of-court resolution. 

Contact Murfreesboro Contested Divorce Attorney

If you have questions or concerns about a contested divorce in Tennessee, contact a Murfreesboro contested divorce attorney at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby as soon as possible to discuss your options by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.