Do I Have to Go to Mediation for My Tennessee Divorce?

If you have reached the point at which divorce is inevitable, or you have already started the divorce process, you undoubtedly want the legal proceedings to be over as quickly as possible. Divorce is difficult enough without it dragging out for months, or even years. At some point during your divorce proceedings, you may be ordered to attend mediation. A Murfreesboro divorce attorney at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby explains when mediation is required in a Tennessee divorce and what you can expect from the mediation process.

Is Your Divorce Contested?

When the Petitioner (the spouse who initiates the divorce) files his/her initial petition with the court, grounds on which the divorce can be granted must be alleged in the petition. Tennessee allows you to allege numerous “fault” grounds or to allege “irreconcilable differences” as a no-fault alternative. If fault grounds are alleged, such as adultery or habitual drunkenness, those grounds must be proven during the ensuing legal proceedings. Typically, this leads to a contested divorce. When irreconcilable differences are alleged, the divorce may end up as a contested or uncontested divorce. For a divorce to be considered uncontested, both spouses must agree on all issues included in the divorce. That means you must agree not just on the grounds on which the divorce will be granted, but on how the marital debts and assets are to be divided, whether alimony is ordered, and all issues related to the minor children of the marriage (if applicable). If you and your spouse disagree on a single issue, the divorce is a contested divorce.

When Is Mediation Ordered in a Tennessee Divorce?

For a final decree of divorce to be granted, all issues related to the divorce must be settled, one way or the other. Ideally, the parties are able to reach an out-of-court settlement that eliminates the need for a trial. If it becomes apparent, however, that the parties have reached an impasse, the court may step in and order mediation to try and avoid the need for a trial. In Tennessee, Rule 31 allows the court to order the parties to attend mediation. The court does not, however, have the authority to order the parties to resolve the issue(s) through mediation. As such, the case will proceed to trial if mediation is unsuccessful at resolving all contested issues.

What Should I Expect from Mediation?

Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) that involves a trained third-party mediator who attempts to help both sides in a dispute to reach a mutually agreeable solution. In Tennessee, mediators are usually attorneys who have attended extra training to be certified to act as mediators in divorce proceedings. Mediation occurs outside of the courtroom, usually at the mediator’s office. The parties typically submit a summary of the dispute ahead of time, so the mediator understands what the issues are that need to be resolved. A mediator does not evaluate the strength of either side’s case and does not give legal advice to either side. A mediator remains neutral throughout the mediation. The only goal of a mediator is to facilitate a resolution by trying to find common ground and by making suggestions that might help move the parties toward an agreement. 

Although the court can order parties to mediation (in most cases), you are not required to reach a resolution on any or all the contested issues. If you do reach an agreement on some or all the contested issues, that agreement will be reduced to writing and submitted to the court for approval. You can resolve some issues through mediation while other issues remain contested. If any issues remain unresolved at the end of mediation, the case will proceed to trial.

Contact a Murfreesboro Divorce Attorney 

If you have additional questions or concerns about court ordered mediation in a Tennessee divorce, consult with an experienced Murfreesboro divorce attorney at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby as soon as possible. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free  appointment.


Stan Bennett