When you are facing divorce, you are understandably going through an emotionally overwhelming and exhausting time. As a result, it is in your best interests to enlist the help of an experienced divorce attorney to take the legal reigns while you focus on your own and your child’s transition to post-divorce life. Attorney Amanda J. Gentry aims to provide clients with honest and to-the-point legal advice, all while fostering a down-to-earth and comfortable office environment for you to discuss your goals and interests. She will guide you through every step of the divorce process and help you to the finish line.
Filing for Divorce
To file for divorce in Tennessee, one spouse must have resided in the state for at least 6 months prior to filing in the local courts. The filing spouse must also list a reason (“ground”) for divorce, which can be based on no-fault or fault grounds. No-fault divorce means that neither spouse is at fault for the breakdown of the marriage and simply cite “irreconcilable differences” as their reason for separation.
Fault grounds, on the other hand, mean that one spouse’s behavior or conduct caused the breakdown of the marriage. As listed by Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-4-101, some examples of fault grounds are if a spouse commits adultery, a felony, or becomes habitually drunk (a habit contracted after the marriage).
Tennessee also offers the option to file for “agreed divorce,” which is a simplified process for those who meet the following requirements:
- both spouses lived in Tennessee for at least the past 6 months;
- the couple has no children together who are under 18 years old, disabled, or still in high school;
- the couple is not currently expecting a child;
- both spouses want to end the marriage;
- the spouses don't co-own any buildings, land, a business, or retirement benefits; and
- both spouses agree on alimony and how to divide the property, and both will sign a divorce settlement agreement.
The Separation Agreement
A separation agreement is a legal document for spouses to lay out their terms for the separation. This will address decisions regarding child custody and visitation, property division, alimony, and child support. Spouses may draft an agreement on their own (or in mediation) outside of the court and submit the final contract to a judge for approval. The benefit to a separation agreement is that it allows couples to resolve their divorce issues on their own terms through discussion, rather than a heated trial and a judge’s default decision. Nonetheless, if the couple cannot reach an agreement on their own, they will have to settle the agreement in trial.
One way to resolve a divorce is mediation, which can help to avoid a lengthy trial. Mediation works best with spouses who are on amicable or at least communicative terms. In mediation, spouses may attempt to settle the divorce without asking a judge for help and guided by their attorneys.
A third-party mediator will facilitate a conversation between the spouses to settle any issues like property division and child custody. Mediation is often a favorable dispute resolution method, as it provides the spouses the most decision-making authority (rather than just defaulting to a judge).