How the Divorce Process Works in Tennessee

In the United States about half of all first marriages end in divorce. The percentage of subsequent marriages that end in divorce is even higher. If you are contemplating divorce, or your spouse had informed you that he/she plans to file for divorce, there are lots of topics you will want to learn about. You will need to know how the divorce process works in Tennessee. While no two divorces are ever exactly the same most divorces follow the same basic process. A better understanding of that process may remove some of the worry and anxiety that typically accompanies a divorce.


  • Filing the Complaint – the divorce process begins when one spouse files a Complaint for Divorce. Before filing, the Petitioner (spouse filing) must make certain the residency requirements are met and must decide on what grounds the divorce will be filed.
  • Notice and Answer – the Complaint must be served on the Respondent (the non-filing spouse). The Respondent then has 30 days in which to file a written Answer with the court. The Respondent may also choose to file a Counter-Complaint along with the Answer.
  • Contested or Uncontested – at this point (if not before) the parties should decide if the divorce is contested or uncontested. Uncontested simply means the parties agree on all issues and are ready to submit a settlement agreement that resolves all those issues. A contested divorce means there is at least one issue on which the parties do not agree.
  • Discovery – Discovery is the process by which each side shares relevant information with the other side. This is done through the use of Discovery tools such as Interrogatories, Requests for Production of Documents, and Depositions.
  • Negotiation/Mediation – once Discovery is complete the parties should try and negotiate a settlement agreement. Mediation may be ordered/suggested by the court if the parties are still unable to come to an agreement on the issues.
  • Agreement – if an agreement is reached it is filed with the court for the judge’s approval. Once it has been approved it becomes part of the Final Decree and the need for a trial is avoided.
  • Trial – if issues remain contested at this point a trial will be set. At trial, the judge or jury will decide any remaining contested issues and those decisions will then become part of the Final Decree.
  • Final Decree – the last step in the divorce process is the filing of the Final Decree. The Final Decree legally ends the marriage and sets forth the terms of the divorce either as agreed upon by the parties or as decided at trial. Terms in the Final Decree become orders of the court and must be obeyed by the parties.


If you have specific questions about your personal situation it is in your best interest to consult with the experienced Tennessee family law attorneys at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.

Stan Bennett