How long does it take to get a divorce in Tennessee?
Summary: In Tennessee, the time it takes to finalize a divorce varies based on its nature. Every divorce is subject to a mandatory waiting period: 60 days for parties without minor children and 90 days for those with minor children. For uncontested divorces, it can range from the waiting period to a few months. Contested divorces can take several months to over a year, depending on the complexity of the issues involved.
Divorce is never easy. While each divorce case is different, knowing the legal timeline for divorce in Tennessee can alleviate some of the stress and uncertainty. In this article, we'll discuss how long it takes to get a divorce in Tennessee, highlighting essential steps and potential delays.
Basic Requirements for Divorce in Tennessee
The timeline for a divorce usually begins by one party filing for divorce, stating their legal grounds for doing so. Tennessee recognizes both fault-based and no-fault grounds for divorce. Fault-based reasons can include adultery, habitual drunkenness, drug use, and desertion, among others. The most common fault ground for divorce is inappropriate marital conduct. The primary no-fault ground for divorce is irreconcilable differences.
Additionally, at least one of the spouses must have lived in Tennessee for a minimum of six months preceding the filing of the divorce complaint.
Mandatory Waiting Period
Regardless of the nature of the divorce, Tennessee mandates a waiting period from the date of filing of the divorce complaint. For parties without minor children, the waiting period is 60 days. For parties with minor children, the waiting period is 90 days.
Types of Divorce in Tennessee
The speed of finalizing a divorce often depends on its nature. Here are the two main types:
1. Uncontested Divorce: An uncontested divorce implies both spouses agree on all issue in their divorce case. They've settled matters of property division, spousal support, and child custody without the court having to make a final determination as to any issue. Uncontested divorces are typically quicker to be finalized, ranging from the mandated waiting period to a few months.
In order to finalize an uncontested divorce, the parties must agree on and present to the court a Marital Dissolution Agreement, as well as any other legal documents necessary in their particular case, such as an Agreed Parenting Plan, and get the Court to approve said documents and enter a Final Decree of Divorce.
2. Contested Divorce: A contested divorce is one in which the parties cannot agree to every issue in the case. If the parties agree to 99/100 issues, the divorce is still contested. The timeline for a contested divorce ranges widely based on the complexity of the issues. It could be several months to more than a year. In some situations, the divorce could take multiple years. The broad steps for an uncontested divorce case are file a complaint, serve the other party, undergo the discovery phase, attend mediation, and if still unresolved, proceed to trial.
Fortunately, divorces that begin contested can become uncontested and resolved based upon the agreement of the parties. Many contested divorces are resolved through dispute resolution processes, particularly mediation.
Factors That Can Influence the Divorce Timeline
Several elements can either expedite or delay your divorce:
1. Complexity of the Case: Complex cases with multiple assets, businesses, and significant debts often take longer to settle.
2. Valuation and Division of Assets and Debts: If couples can't agree on how their property and debt should be valued, they may need appraisals, which adds time to the divorce proceeding.
3. Child Custody and Visitation Rights: Disagreements on child-related matters can prolong the process.
4. Issues during the Pendency of the Case: Issues that need to be resolved while the divorce proceeding is pending, also known as pendente lite issues, can expand the timeline for a divorce to be concluded. The most common issues of this type are temporary child support and temporary spousal support.
6. Availability of the Court: Court calendars can be packed, causing further delays.
7. Willingness to Cooperate: Spouses willing to negotiate or mediate may experience a swifter process.
Steps in the Divorce Process
Understanding the general stages of a divorce proceeding can give you a clearer picture of the timeline:
1. Filing of the Divorce Complaint: Initiates the legal divorce process.
2. Service of Process: The non-filing spouse is formally notified of the divorce proceeding.
3. Response from the Other Party: The non-filing spouse typically files their Answer to the initial divorce petition, and their counter-petition for divorce, if necessary. They can either agree, disagree, or not respond, which impacts the next steps.
4. Discovery Phase: Both sides exchange relevant information, including financial records. The amount of discovery that is necessary varies substantially from case to case. Other than the trial, the discovery phase is often the most labor intensive portion of a divorce proceeding, though this depends entirely upon the amount of discovery necessary in a particular case.
5. Negotiations and Mediation: Parties in a divorce can always reach a settlement on their own or between their attorneys. Typically, however, a mediator is required to help resolve disagreements. Ideal mediators in a divorce case are practicing divorce attorneys that can offer the parties a neutral perspective on their cases. If successful, it can significantly reduce the timeline.
6. Trial: If mediation doesn't resolve all issues, the case moves to trial before the Court.
7. Issuance of the Final Divorce Decree: This official document marks the end of the marriage.
8. 30 Days to be Finalized: A final order is appealable for 30 days after entry.
Not every divorce case will have the above steps, nor will every divorce case follow the above steps in that particular order. For more examples at the potential variations of a divorce case in Tennessee, visit our page on the Trajectory of a Divorce in Tennessee.
Legal Aid and Counseling During Divorce
Legalities aside, divorce can be emotionally draining. Therefore:
- Seek Legal Advice: Ensure your rights and interests are protected. Professionals, such as those at Lee Jackson Law, can provide expert guidance.
- Embrace Counseling: Emotional support is invaluable. Consider seeking a counselor or therapist specializing in divorce if you find the prospect or process of divorce to be overbearing.
Divorce in Tennessee, as anywhere, is a complicated and highly subjective process. While every divorce proceeding has definitive steps, the circumstances of each individual case can greatly influence the time it takes to finalize a divorce. The light at the end of the tunnel can become obscured if you don’t know how to look for it. Equipping yourself with knowledge and securing professional assistance is paramount. Remember, at Lee Jackson Law, we're committed to guiding you every step of the way.
*Note: Always consult with an attorney about your specific situation. The content provided here is for informational purposes, does not constitute legal advice, and is not meant for use in any legal document, legal proceeding, or court room. The information contained herein may not be applicable to all scenarios.*