Typically, the weeks, months, and even years leading up to the decision to end a marriage are marked by roller-coaster emotions. Once the decision has been made, however, it is crucial that you focus those emotions on the legal and practical issues that are part of the divorce process. Of course, if you have never been through a divorce, you likely know very little about the divorce process. Because it is important to have some idea what to expect, a Murfreesboro divorce attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby explains the most common steps in the Tennessee divorce process.
Steps in the Tennessee Divorce Process
Your divorce may not include all of the following steps, or may include additional steps not included below; however, the most common steps in a Tennessee divorce include:
- Initiating the divorce. To begin the divorce process, one spouse must file a Divorce Complaint with the appropriate court. To file for divorce in Tennessee, one spouse must have lived in the state for at least six months preceding the filing of the Complaint. The Complaint will include basic information about the parties as well as allege the grounds on which the divorce is sought. Tennessee offers both fault and no-fault divorce. A no-fault divorce doesn’t require the Petitioner (spouse filing the Complaint) to prove anything other than that the marriage cannot be saved. Tennessee also recognizes 13 fault grounds for divorce. If fault grounds are alleged, those grounds must be proven during the divorce.
- Serving the Complaint. The Petitioner is required to serve the Complaint along with a summons on the Respondent (the other spouse). The summons will advise the Respondent that a divorce proceeding has been initiated and that the Respondent must file a written Answer within 30 days or the Respondent effectively waives the right to contest anything in the Complaint.
- Filing an Answer. The Respondent must file a written Answer, or ask the court for additional time to file the Answer, within the 30 day time period if he/she wishes to materially participate in the divorce process.
- Default judgment. If the Respondent failed to file an Answer within the allotted time, the Petitioner can file a Motion for Default Judgment with the court. If granted, the Petitioner’s request for a divorce will be granted and some issues decided based only on information provided by the Petitioner because the Respondent failed to participate.
- Waiting period. Even if both parties agree on everything, Tennessee imposes a 60 day “cooling off” period. The waiting period means that a divorce cannot be finalized for at least 60 days after the date the Complaint was filed.
- Preliminary hearing. If the Respondent did file an Answer, the parties may be required to appear for a preliminary hearing. At this hearing, the court may enter preliminary, or temporary, orders that cover things such as child support, parenting time, and possession of the marital residence. These are not final orders, meaning the court may change an order at the end of the divorce process.
- Discovery process. If there are contested issues in the divorce, the parties will proceed to the discovery process. During the discovery process, both sides will share relevant information and/or be compelled to provide information through the use of legal tools such as depositions, interrogatories, or requests for production of documents.
- The parties may choose to try mediation to work out contested issues. The court may also order mediation. Mediation involves a trained intermediary who tries to help both parties resolve contested issues. If mediation is successful, the agreement reached at mediation can be submitted to the court; however, you are not required to reach an agreement at mediation.
- I contested issues remain, the divorce will proceed to trial at which time a judge or jury will decide those issues.
- Final decree. The final step in a Tennessee divorce is the entry of a final decree by the court. The final decree, or final judgment, will set forth the terms of the divorce. Those terms become orders of the court and a violation of those terms is a violation of a court order.
If you are contemplating divorce in Tennessee, or your spouse has already initiated the divorce process, consult with a Murfreesboro divorce attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are protected throughout the process. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment