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Getting a Divorce in Tennessee: Where to File and What to Expect

David Sexton

srpthumb-p7256-450x260-no.jpgIt is true that no two marriages are the same, and it is just as true that no two divorces are the same. Each marriage has two unique individuals who come together with their own finances, property, debts, and sometimes children.  When the decision is made, either by one spouse or both, to get a divorce, those finances, property, debts, etc., need to be divided among the individuals.

It may seem simple that each person should leave with what they came to the marriage with, but that typically is not the case and divorces quickly become complicated when property is bought together, when the spouses have children together, when the spouses start a business together, and countless other scenarios that occur during a marriage.

Tennessee does not take the decision to get divorced lightly and, therefore, when a petition for a divorce is filed, there is a waiting period.  If there are minor children involved, the waiting period is 90 days.  If there are no minor children, then the waiting period is only 60 days. However, this is the minimum time allowed between the filing of the divorce and a hearing, not when a divorce will be granted.

In the context of a divorce, a "petition" refers to the document(s) or form(s) filed with the court that starts the process. When filing a petition, you must decide where (what state) to file the petition.  To file in Tennessee, one or both spouses must have lived in Tennessee for at least 6 months before filing. You may also file in Tennessee if you lived here when you decided to divorce.  Then, you must choose the correct court the proper county in Tennessee.

The petition will need to be filed in the county where your spouse lives or in the county where you and your spouse lived when you were separated. You may file in the county you live in only if your spouse is in jail or does not live in Tennessee. You should speak with an attorney to be sure you are filing in the correct county.

There will be a fee to file a petition, but that fee varies based on the county where you are filing for the divorce. With the petition, you will likely be required to complete a form that will indicate whether one spouse will pay the fees, or if the fees will be split between the spouses. Most counties require the fee to be paid at the time of filing, although some counties allow the fee to be paid later, depending on the situation.

During the divorce process, there will be a lot of forms that will need to be completed. These forms give the court an understanding of the marriage, the reason for the divorce, the property that must be split, the financial situation of both spouses, and the children involved.  Second, a hearing will be scheduled where you and your spouse will present your plan for the divorce for the court's approval.

The plan will need to be detailed and split all property, assets, debts, etc.  The court will only approve the plan if it is fair to both spouses.  This does not mean the property must be split equally, but you will have to explain, to a judge, how the property is split and how it is fair to both spouses.

While a divorce is pending, there are a few things that spouses are not allowed to do, including:

  • Spend, give away, destroy, waste or use up property from the marriage
  • Harass each other
  • Stop or change insurance policies
  • Hide, change, or destroy electronic evidence

The process of getting divorced in Tennessee is complicated, even when two people without minor children agree to end the marriage and split all their property. The process becomes overwhelming when one spouse does not want a divorce or becomes hostile during the process.  Emotions are high during a divorce, which often leads to irrational behavior by one or both spouses. Hiring an attorney to step in and assist with the divorce can make the easier on everyone involved, including children.

If any aspect of the divorce is not mutually agreed upon, such as custody, alimony, or the division of debts and assets, then you should speak with an attorney as soon as possible. Once a judge grants a divorce, you are bound by the terms of that divorce, whether you agree with them or not.  If you are considering a divorce, already filed a petition, or have been served with a divorce by your spouse, protect your rights and speak with an attorney.

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