The Divorce Process 

Attorney Help Through the Divorce Process in Nashville  

The divorce process begins with a Complaint for Divorce. This document is written from one spouse and served upon the other to begin proceedings. This document includes statistical information such as each spouse’s name, age, and employment, as well as information about the marriage. If there are minor children born from the marriage, some of their information will be included as well. This information submitted must be complete and thorough regarding both parties involved in the divorce.    

The Law Offices of Amanda J. Gentry is here to guide you through the divorce process. For representation in Nashville, contact our lawyer online or by calling (615) 235-5096.

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Grounds for Divorce in Tennessee 

To file for divorce in Tennessee, one or both parties must have resided in the state for at least six months prior to the Divorce Complaint being filed. This residency requirement is what gives the state of Tennessee jurisdiction in the matter.

The Complaint for Divorce will also include the grounds for divorce. The grounds for divorce are the reason(s) why a divorce is desired and are required to be included in the Complaint. In the state of Tennessee, there are two types of divorces: Uncontested and Contested. 

An Uncontested Divorce is typically based on irreconcilable differences. In an uncontested divorce, both parties are in agreement and amicably execute all necessary documents for the division of assets/debts and a parenting plan if minor children are involved. 

A Contested Divorce is a divorce in which the parties are not in agreement on division of assets/debts and/or are not amicable. Contested divorces require at least two grounds for divorce and proof of those grounds. 

The most common grounds for contested divorce are irreconcilable differences and inappropriate marital conduct, but all of the recognized grounds for divorce are as follows:

  • Impotency - either party at the time of marriage was and still is naturally impotent and incapable of procreation
  • Bigamy - either party has knowingly entered into a second marriage while the first marriage is still subsisting
  • Adultery - either party has committed adultery
  • Desertion - willful or malicious desertion or absence of either party without reasonable cause for one (1) whole year
  • Infamous Crime Conviction – a spouse is convicted of any crime that renders the party infamous, such as rape, incest, larceny, etc.
  • Felony Crime Conviction – a spouse is convicted of a crime that is declared a felony and sentenced to confinement in a penitentiary
  • Attempt to Kill One’s Spouse - either party has attempted to end the life of the other party
  • Refusal to Move to Tennessee - Refusal by one spouse to move to Tennessee with the other spouse without a reasonable cause, and being absent from the spouse residing in Tennessee for two (2) years
  • Undisclosed Pregnancy - pregnancy of the wife by another man at the time of the marriage and without the knowledge of the husband
  • Habitual Drunkenness or Abuse of Narcotics – by either party when such abuse was not known prior to the marriage or began after the marriage
  • Inappropriate Marital Conduct – aka “cruel and inhuman treatment,” this refers to a willful, routinely hostile marital environment created by one spouse that renders cohabitation unsafe and/or improper
  • Indignities – one spouse has offered such indignities to the other spouse’s person as to render the spouse’s position intolerable and thereby forced the spouse to withdraw
  • Abandonment – one spouse abandoned the other for no just cause and has refused or neglected to provide for the spouse while having the ability to do so
  • Irreconcilable Differences - the spouses agree that their differences/disagreements have reached the point that there is no chance of reconciliation
  • Separation - of two (2) or more years, with both parties having lived in separate residences for that time and there being no minor children involved

Tennessee law requires a mandatory waiting period between the time a Complaint is filed and the time a divorce is granted. For cases without minor children, this waiting period is 60 days. For cases with minor children, the waiting period is 90 days.

In both types of divorces, the parties are entered into a Temporary Injunction, also known as a Restraining Order, that prevents either party from doing such things as selling property, changing insurance policies regarding the spouse or children, harassing the other party, destroying evidence, etc. 

In both types of divorces involving minor children, both parents will have to take a Court-approved parenting class and submit their certificate of completion to the Court.

Post-Complaint Proceedings on an Uncontested Divorce

After a Complaint is filed on an Uncontested Divorce, a Marital Dissolution Agreement is drafted and executed by both parties. The Marital Dissolution Agreement includes information such as who will pay court & attorney’s fees, division of property (real and personal), division of retirement, division of debts, allotment of alimony, allotment of life insurance, allotment of health insurance, and other obligations. 

If the parties have minor children, there will also be a Permanent Parenting Plan that lays out each parent’s time with the children and other responsibilities of each parent. The permanent parenting plan also includes a Child Support Worksheet that is used to determine the amount of child support to be paid. It also identifies which party will receive the child support and which party will be required to pay the support. The dollar amount is calculated by the state and based on such things as the parties’ incomes, days the child(ren) are with each parent, work-related daycare expenses, insurance, etc.

Once this document(s) has been filed with the Court and the waiting period has passed, a Final Hearing date will be set. At the hearing, the judge will review all documents and, if approved, will sign the Final Decree of Divorce, which finalizes the divorce. 

Post-Complaint Proceedings on a Contested Divorce

Once the filed complaint is served upon a spouse, that spouse will have 30 days to file an Answer to Complaint and can file a Counter Complaint if they choose to do so. 

  • IF AN ANSWER IS NOT FILED and the state’s waiting period has been completed, the filing spouse can enter a Motion for Default Judgement to be heard by the Judge. If the Judge finds the Motion well taken, then the Judge will sign an Order Granting Default Divorce.
  • IF AN ANSWER IS FILED then the process continues. 

If a spouse desires financial support from the other spouse during the divorce proceedings, a Motion For Pendente Lite Support can be filed requesting support, along with an Income and Expense Statement from the spouse showing the need for support. At the hearing, relief may be granted to either party for such things as temporary alimony, attorney’s fees, maintenance of the marital residence, etc., and if there are minor children, temporary child support.

If there are minor children, a Motion for Temporary Parenting Plan can also be filed to be heard by the Judge requesting a set schedule for visitation time with the minor child(ren).

Oftentimes, a Settlement Proposal will be sent to the other party in the hopes of being able to reach an agreement quickly and easily. This proposal details the desired plan for any property, debts, bank accounts, etc. being contested. The other party may agree to the proposal or may send back their own proposal with their desired plans.

The Discovery Process 

Discovery is the process of gathering information and evidence from both parties. The goal of Discovery is to make sure each party has the same information about the case for the purpose of making the negotiations fair. It is also the information that will be used should the case proceed to Trial. There are different forms of Discovery, including:

  • Interrogatories – written questions, usually asking about a person’s finances, employment, behavior during the marriage, and other such information that may be relevant to the proceedings.
  • Requests for Production of Documents – formal requests for certain documents relating to the marriage/divorce, such as bank and credit card statements, paystubs, tax returns, appraisals, phone records, emails, etc. 
  • Admissions – short questions stating facts to either be admitted or denied.
  • Subpoenas – legal documents sent to third parties requiring them to provide evidence (such as documents) about, or to appear and testify about, the case.
  • Depositions – verbal testimony given under Oath, where the parties answer questions from the attorneys and the answers are transcribed by a court reporter to be used in trial. Depositions can be taken of the parties involved in the divorce as well as witnesses.

All requests for discovery require a response within a specific time frame. If discovery requests are not received within that time frame or questions are not answered truthfully, there can be serious consequences.

Mediation 

If settlement attempts are not successful, then Mediation must be scheduled. Mediation is a negotiation between the parties conducted by a mediator who is a neutral party to the divorce. Each party, with their attorney, will speak to the mediator separately about the issues that are not agreed upon, with the objective of finding viable solutions that work for both parties. The mediator will go back and forth between the parties to try and reach an agreeable settlement to the issues. 

Mediation works! It’s estimated that 60% to 85% of divorce mediations result in settlement. If you need a mediation attorney to represent you in Nashville, visit our mediation page.

If mediation is successful, a Marital Dissolution Agreement will be executed for both parties to sign and to then be filed. As stated above, the Marital Dissolution Agreement includes information such as who will pay court & attorney’s fees, division of property (real and personal), division of retirement, division of debts, allotment of alimony, allotment of life insurance, allotment of health insurance, and other obligations. 

If there are children, a Permanent Parenting Plan will also be executed to be signed and then filed with the Marital Dissolution Agreement. As stated above, the Permanent Parenting Plan lays out each parent’s time with the children and other responsibilities of each parent. The permanent parenting plan also includes a Child Support Worksheet, which determines the amount of child support to be paid and which party is to receive the child support. The dollar amount is calculated by the state and based on such things as the parties’ incomes, days the child(ren) are with each parent, work-related daycare expenses, insurance, etc.

There will then be a Final Hearing with a Judge to confirm all of the details and, if approved, a Final Decree of Divorce will be executed by the Judge to officially grant the divorce.

If mediation is not successful, then the case continues…

In certain counties, the case will go before a Special Master, who is an expert in the matters of divorce and how the Judges in that county rule. The Special Master will aim to settle the matter based on how they believe the Judge would rule. 

If the Special Master is unsuccessful or the county does not use a Special Master, then the case will go on to Trial. The Judge will look at all the evidence from both parties, testimony from any witnesses the parties wish to involve, and testimony from both parties in order to reach a final decision about the case. 

The Judge will execute a Final Judgment of Divorce, which will state the final ruling. This will include details about the division of assets/debts, property, payment of fees, any other issues that needed to be resolved, and will include a Parenting Plan if there are minor children.

For professional support and legal guidance throughout the divorce process, turn to the Law Offices of Amanda J. Gentry. Call (615) 235-5096 or submit an line form here.

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