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Navigating a Contested Divorce in Tennessee

Divorce is never an easy process, but when it becomes contested, the complexities and emotional fallout can escalate dramatically. In Tennessee, contested divorces often entail legal battles over crucial issues like property division, child custody, and alimony. If you are faced with a contested divorce, it is crucial to consult with an experienced divorce attorney. In the meantime, a Murfreesboro divorce attorney at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby offers some perspective on what to expect when navigating a contested divorce in Tennessee.

Understanding Contested Divorce in Tennessee

In Tennessee, a contested divorce occurs when spouses cannot reach an agreement on one or more key issues, such as asset division, child custody,divorce attorney child support, or alimony. Unlike uncontested divorces, where spouses agree on all terms, contested divorces often necessitate court intervention to settle disputes. Such divorces tend to be more time-consuming, emotionally draining, and financially burdensome due to legal fees and prolonged litigation.

Grounds for Divorce in Tennessee

Tennessee recognizes both fault and no-fault grounds for divorce. No-fault grounds allow the parties to simply agree that they have irreconcilable differences that prevent the marriage from working. You can also assert that you have no children and have lived apart from your spouse for two or more years. Fault grounds in Tennessee include:

  • Adultery
  • Habitual drunkenness drug abuse
  • 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

Keep in mind that if you (or your spouse) allege fault grounds in a divorce, those allegations must be proven during the divorce proceedings.

Legal Process of a Contested Divorce

Although no two divorces proceed through the legal process in precisely the same way, a general guideline for a contested divorce in Tennessee is as follows:

  • Filing the Complaint: The contested divorce process begins with one spouse filing a complaint with the court, specifying the grounds for divorce and desired outcomes regarding asset division, child custody, and support.
  • Response and Counterclaim: The other spouse must respond to the complaint within a specified timeframe, either agreeing or contesting the claims. They may also file a counterclaim, outlining their own requests and grievances.
  • Discovery: This phase involves exchanging relevant information and evidence related to the contested issues, such as financial records, witness statements, and expert opinions. Discovery methods may include depositions, interrogatories, requests for production of documents, and subpoenas.
  • Mediation: Tennessee law mandates mediation for contested divorces involving child custody or visitation disputes. A neutral mediator helps the parties negotiate and reach agreements outside of court. While mediation is often successful, unresolved issues proceed to trial.
  • Pre-Trial Conference: Before trial, the court may hold a pre-trial conference to discuss the case’s status, unresolved matters, and potential settlement options. The judge may encourage further negotiation or set deadlines for finalizing trial preparations.
  • Trial: If the parties fail to settle, the case proceeds to trial, where each side presents evidence, witnesses, and arguments to the judge. The judge then makes decisions based on Tennessee law and the evidence presented.
  • Final Decree: After trial, the judge issues a final decree of divorce, outlining the terms of the divorce, including asset division, custody arrangements, child support, and alimony. Both parties must adhere to the court’s orders, which are legally binding.

Common Issues in A Contested Divorce in Tennessee

While almost anything can cause a divorce to be contested in Tennessee, the most common reasons for a divorce to become contentious, and result in a contested divorce proceeding, include:

  • Property Division: Tennessee follows equitable distribution principles, meaning marital property is divided fairly but not necessarily equally. Marital assets include property, bank accounts, retirement accounts, vehicles, and debts acquired during the marriage. Disputes may arise over the classification of assets as marital or separate property and the valuation of assets.
  • Child Custody and Visitation: When parents cannot agree on custody arrangements, the court prioritizes the child’s best interests. Factors considered include each parent’s relationship with the child, mental and physical health, stability of the home environment, and the child’s preferences (if mature enough). Custody arrangements may involve joint custody, primary custody with one parent, or shared parenting plans.
  • Child Support: Tennessee uses state guidelines to calculate child support based on each parent’s income, the number of children, and custody arrangements. Disputes may arise over income determination, childcare expenses, healthcare costs, and deviations from the guidelines.
  • Alimony: Spousal support, or alimony, may be awarded based on factors such as each spouse’s earning capacity, financial needs, contributions to the marriage, and the standard of living during the marriage. Disputes may arise over the amount, duration, and type of alimony awarded.

Contact a Murfreesboro Divorce Attorney 

If you headed for a contested divorce in Tennessee, 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.


Dinah Michael