Making the decision to end a marriage is not easy. Neither is the divorce process that follows, particularly if it is an acrimonious divorce. If you are contemplating divorce, or have already made up your mind, you may have questions about the process. One concern many people have is whether they will have to appear in court during their divorce. As a Murfreesboro divorce lawyer explains, whether or not you will need to go to court depends, in large part, on how the divorce is resolved.
Getting the Divorce Started
The divorce process in Tennessee begins when one spouse files a Complaint for Divorce with the appropriate court. In that document, the Petitioner (spouse who initiated the divorce) must provide some basic information about the marriage and must allege the grounds on which the divorce is sought. Like most states, Tennessee does now offer a no-fault option, letting a Petitioner choose “irreconcilable differences” as the grounds for the divorce. Tennessee also retains the old fault grounds for a divorce, including:
- Habitual drunkenness or abuse of narcotic drugs;
- Living apart for two years with no minor children;
- 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; and
- Abandonment or refusal or neglecting to provide for spouse although able to do so.
If you allege irreconcilable differences, nothing more is required of you with regard to the grounds for the divorce. If, however, you allege one of the fault grounds, you must ultimately prove those grounds.
What Happens after the Complaint Is Filed?
Immediately after the divorce is filed, the Petitioner must serve the Respondent (other spouse) with a copy of the Complaint and Summons. The Respondent only has 20 days from the date of service to respond to the Complaint by filing an official Answer with the court. If the Respondent fails to file an Answer, the Petitioner can file for summary judgment. In essence, this means that the Petitioner will be granted a divorce without the Respondent having anything to say about the terms or the process.
If the Respondent does file an Answer, then the divorce moves forward into the discovery phase. Discovery allows both sides to request and share information relent to the divorce. At any time, the parties can come together and reach a mutually agreeable Marital Settlement agreement that resolves all the issues in the divorce. If the couple has minor children, they will also need to create a Parenting Plan. If a Settlement is not forthcoming, the divorce will head to trial.
Am I Required to Go to Court?
Whether or not you will be required to appear in court will depend, to a large extent, on how your divorce is resolved. If you and your spouse are unable to reach a settlement agreement the court may require you to appear for a pre-trial conference at which time the judge may try to ascertain if mediation – or anything else—might help you reach an agreement. If a settlement is impossible, you will have to return for a trial. The length of the trial could be anywhere from a couple of hours to several days.
On the other hand, if you are able to reach a settlement agreement, there is no need for a trial. In that case, only one of the parties must appear in court at a final hearing to tell the judge about the agreement. That appearance is usually short and to the point. Most importantly, it is not adversarial in nature.
Contact a Murfreesboro Divorce Lawyer
If you have additional questions or concerns about a divorce in the State of Tennessee, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Murfreesboro divorce lawyer as soon as possible. Contact the team at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.