Trajectory of a Divorce in Tennessee
Most people want to know "What can I expect in my divorce case?" The answer to this question, like most general questions involving legal proceedings, is "it depends." Every divorce case is different based upon the facts and people involved. However, most contested Tennessee divorce cases typically involve the following steps:
Party 1 files a divorce complaint;
The complaint is served on Party 2;
Party 2 files an Answer;
The parties undergo discovery;
The parties attend mediation;
If the case isn't settled at mediation (or by the parties outside of mediation), the case goes to trial.
If you have a contested divorce, you can almost be certain that the above steps will need to be completed before your divorce proceeding is finalized (unless the parties reach an agreement as to all issues and the case is settled, which can be done at just about any time). This outline of a divorce proceeding can vary dramatically in both positive and negative ways. For example, if you and your spouse are in agreement as to all issues from the very beginning and agree on the divorce, then your divorce case may look something like this:
Party 1 files a divorce complaint;
Both parties sign and file a Marital Dissolution Agreement;
Party 1 is granted a divorce at the final hearing.
In contrast, here is an outline of a more complicated hypothetical contested divorce proceeding:
1. Party 1 files a divorce complaint;
(a) Proposed parenting plan filed as well, as the parties have minor children.
2. The complaint cannot be served on Party 2 because they cannot be found.
(a) Party 1 files a motion for service by publication;
(b) The motion is granted, service made through publication.
3. Party 2 fails to file a timely answer
(a) Party 1 files motion for default judgment
(b) Party 2 shows up at the motion hearing and gets additional time to file an answer.
4. Party 2 retains counsel and files an answer
5. Party 2 files a counter-complaint for divorce.
6. Party 1 files an answer to the counter complaint.
7. Party 1 needs temporary child and spousal support, files the appropriate motion.
(a) Party 2 wants more parenting time, files the appropriate motion.
8. The parties send each other discovery requests – Interrogatories, Request for Production of Documents, and Request for Admissions.
(a) Party 2 thinks the discovery is too much and files a motion for a protective order.
(b) Party 1 has failed to timely provide their discovery answers so Party 2 files a motion to compel discovery responses.
(c) Party 1 files a counter-motion alleging that Party 2’s responses are insufficient.
9. Discovery responses are completed.
10. Party 2 accuses Party 1 of being a danger to their children and files an emergency restraining order.
(a) Party 1 hires expert to evaluate the psychological conditions of the parties.
(b) Party 2 refuses to submit to the evaluation of Party 1’s expert and hires their own psychological expert.
(c) After a hearing, the judge lifts the restraining order and enters a temporary parenting plan.
11. The parties depose each other.
12. The parties depose witnesses.
13. The parties must hire experts to value their real property.
14. The parties can't agree on a mediator, so the Court appoints one.
15. The parties attend Mediation
(a) After three days of mediation, the parties agree to a marital dissolution agreement and permanent parenting plan and the case is settled.
16. Or – the case proceeds to trial which, because of the court schedule, is not set until 4 months later.
(a) The night before the trial, the judge catches COVID and the trial is rescheduled for another 3 months.
17. After 6 days of trial over a 12 month period, the court makes its ruling, enters a final decree of divorce, permanent parenting plan order, and child support worksheet, and the case is over.
The above hypothetical example is oversimplified even for the issues it describes, and doesn't begin to describe all the issues that could come up in a contested divorce case.