This blog post should give you a general idea of what to expect if you have to file for divorce in Tennessee.
When people divorce, the assets of the marriage must be equitably divided. If there are any minor children of the marriage, a parenting plan must be established to determine which parent the children will live with, and on which days. The first question to ask yourself when you’ve decided to get a divorce is: Can my spouse and I agree, or will we need to fight about it?
If you can agree, you can be granted a divorce based upon irreconcilable differences. You and your spouse would sign a document called a Marital Dissolution Agreement which would handle the equitable (fair) division of assets. Common assets divided in a Marital Dissolution Agreement are: the marital home, the marital vehicles, marital bank accounts, and marital retirement accounts. This document would also provide for temporary or permanent spousal support, should you and your spouse agree that such support is necessary. If children are involved, an agreed divorce will also require you to sign and approve of a Permanent Parenting Plan that both parties find to be in the best interest of their child or children. These documents would be prepared by an attorney, and filed in the county where one or both of the spouses reside.
Alternatively, if you and you spouse cannot agree – or, if you agree about some things but not about everything – you would need to proceed with a contested divorce. In a contested divorce, you must allege a specific ground for divorce. There are several such grounds, and they are listed in the Tennessee Code Annotated. The most common grounds are inappropriate marital conduct and adultery. Because the parties cannot agree to an equitable division, a contested divorce results in a judge dividing the assets of the property. This happens after a lengthy ‘discovery’ process, where the parties to the divorce are allowed to collect information about their respective assets, and ultimately, after a trial, where each spouse presents testimony, and argues as to why their proposed equitable divisions is what should be granted by the court.
Prior to trial, most contested divorces try to participate in at least one mediation. Mediation is a process where a neutral attorney with special training facilitates a discussion between the spouses in an effort to create an agreed Marital Dissolution Agreement and Permanent Parenting Plan. The easiest way to think about mediation is it’s a way for the parties to compromise, with the help of a mediator and the advice of their respective attorneys, and to transform a contested divorce into one resolved by agreement.
Once a divorce is resolved – either by agreement or after a trial – the court presiding over the matter will issue a final judgment which ends the parties status as marital persons, and binds the parties to abide by either their Marital Dissolution Agreement or the court ordered equitable division of property.