Although divorce can be overwhelming, uncontested divorces are often less devastating to your emotions and finances than are contested ones. (Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-4-103 (a)(2).)
While certain divorces devolve into arguments, expensive legal bills, and court hearings, yours doesn't have to. Instead, Tennessee's uncontested divorce process allows spouses to reach an agreement and avoid the stress and expense associated with a court trial. The uncontested divorce process is often relatively fast and less expensive than a contested divorce.
This article provides a general overview of the uncontested divorce process in Tennessee. The court doesn't require you to have lawyers during your divorce, but if you still have questions about obtaining an uncontested divorce after reading this article, contact a local family law attorney for advice.
Uncontested divorces are an option available only to divorcing Tennessee couples that do not have children together. Courts often refer to uncontested divorces as agreed or simplified divorces because the spouses have agreed on all terms, there are fewer forms to complete, and the filing fees are less than a traditional divorce.
However, you and your spouse must meet all the following criteria to qualify for an uncontested divorce in Tennessee:
If you and your spouse disagree on any divorce-related issue or if any of the above criteria do not fit your case, then you do not qualify for an uncontested divorce, and you will need to proceed with filing a traditional (contested) divorce.
Before filing for divorce, you must make sure that you meet the state's residency requirements. Tennessee law requires that at least one spouse lives in the state for a minimum of 6 months before filing for divorce. The only exception to the residency requirement is if both spouses live in the state when they decide to divorce. (Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-4-104.)
If you meet the above criteria and the residency requirements, you may proceed with your uncontested divorce by filing the required forms set forth below.
If you plan to file for divorce without the help of a lawyer, you will be responsible for filing the right documents in the proper court. Tennessee's circuit courts oversee divorce cases and trials. You should bring your paperwork to the circuit court where you live. However, if you and your spouse reside in different areas of the state, you can file in either county.
The Tennessee Courts site offers online forms for completing an uncontested divorce. If you don't have access to the divorce packets online, you can request a hard copy of the approved documents from your local courthouse. Because the court may charge you for the papers, it's best to call the court clerk before your visit to make sure you bring enough money.
When you file an uncontested divorce, you'll need to include the following forms with your paperwork:
Courts in each county may require more or less paperwork from filing spouses. It's important to contact your local court clerk to verify that you included all the appropriate documents before you file. The court also charges a filing fee when you submit your documentation to the court. If you can't afford the fees, you can file an additional document titled "Request to Postpone Filing Fees and Order," which asks the judge to waive any court-related costs in your divorce.
It's common to wonder how long it takes to divorce. In Tennessee, an uncontested, no-fault divorce takes a minimum of 60 days from start to finish. For couples with children, the mandatory waiting period for divorce is a minimum of 90 days from the date the spouse files the Petition for Divorce. (Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-4-103 (c)) However, the time it takes for the court to finalize your divorce will depend on the accuracy of your paperwork and the judge's schedule. Once the court clerk schedules the final hearing, both spouses should attend the final divorce hearing in front of the judge.
The court will review your paperwork and verify that your settlement agreement is reasonable for both spouses. If the court approves the documents, the judge will sign the Decree of Divorce, which will finalize your divorce. It's important to understand that the judge may not sign the divorce decree on the same day as your final hearing. Neither spouse can remarry until the court provides a copy of the signed judgment.
If you have additional questions about obtaining an uncontested divorce in Tennessee, contact an experienced family law attorney for assistance. For more information on uncontested divorces in Tennessee and to read the entire statute, see Tennessee Code, Title 36, Chapter 4.