The divorce process is a costly, time-consuming, and often emotional traumatic experience for everyone involved. It can also be intimidating if you have never been through a divorce and you are unfamiliar with the legal system. Although every divorce process is as unique as the marriage it dissolves, there are some common steps. For anyone who may be contemplating divorce, a Murfreesboro divorce attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby offers a brief explanation of the common steps in a Tennessee divorce.
- Making the decision. The first step in any divorce is making the decision to end the marriage. Hopefully, the decision is only made after careful contemplation and as a last resort.
- Contested or uncontested? Some divorces are clearly going to be antagonistic from the start. Many divorces, however, are actually fairly amicable. This is also no guarantee that a divorce that starts out as an uncontested divorce will remain that way – and vice versa; however, it helps to decide whether an agreement appears likely from the outset so you know which way to proceed.
- Hiring counsel. It actually helps to consult with an attorney as soon as the idea of divorce comes up; however, once the decision has been made with certainty, it is definitely time to hire an experienced Tennessee divorce lawyer.
- Preparing and filing the initial documents. To initiate the divorce proceedings, one spouse must take the lead (the “Petitioner”) and prepare the requirements documents, including a Petition for Divorce. The Petition includes basic information about the marriage and asks for the court to dissolve the marriage and grant the Petitioner the relief he/she seeks. It also states the grounds on which the divorce is sought. Tennessee allows you to file a “no fault” divorce or to allege any of 13 “fault” grounds. Along with the Petition, a Summons must be prepared that is served on the Respondent (the non-filing spouse) along with other initial documents that might be required.
- Addressing Minor Children. If there are minor children of the marriage, you will also need to submit a proposed Parenting Plan which addresses issues such as time-sharing, decisions making, and financial support of the child(ren) post-divorce.
- Serving the Respondent. The law requires the Petitioner to serve a copy of the Petition and accompanying documents to the Respondent using a method authorized by law, such as service by Sheriff or personal service. The Summons will let the Respondent know you have filed for divorce and explain that the Respondent has a limited amount of time within which to file an official Answer with the court.
- Answer and/or Counter-Petition. The Respondent is not required to file a written response to the Petition; however, if he/she wishes to answer the allegations contained in the Petition, an official Answer must be filed with the court within the statutory time period. The Respondent also has the option to file a Counter-Petition at this time.
- Negotiating a Marital Settlement Agreement. If the parties have agreed to keep the divorcee amicable, now is when the terms of a mutually acceptable Marital Settlement Agreement are negotiated. Once all potential issues are resolved the Agreement is signed and submitted to the court for approval.
- The discovery process. If an agreement is not forthcoming, the Discovery process is next. During Discovery, each side “discovers” relevant documents and information with the other side. Tax returns, income verification, and appraisals of major assets are examples of documents that might be shared during discovery.
- Mediation. The parties may voluntarily agree to, or the court may order, mediation in an effort to resolve as many issues as possible outside of the courtroom. If the parties resolve their disputes during mediation, the terms of that resolution will be reduced to writing and submitted to the court for approval.
- Trial. If all efforts to come to an agreement resolving all issues in the divorce outside of the courtroom fail, those issues will have to be resolved at trial.
- Final Orders. Whether by agreement or trial, the divorcee process ends with a judgment of divorce. The court will issue a final order indicating that the parties are divorced as well as the terms of the divorce.
Contact a Murfreesboro Divorce Attorney
If you have additional questions about the steps 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 appointment.