Find the answers below to some common questions about getting a divorce in Tennessee. (For more information on Tennessee family law, see the information and resources on our Tennessee page.)
Generally speaking, you have to be domiciled in Tennessee at least six months before you can file for divorce. If you are the victim of abuse or there is some other emergency, you may be able to file immediately.
You must be a resident of Tennessee for six months to file for divorce here. You may file in the county where you or your spouse live. If you have moved from another state recently, discuss your options with your attorney. You may have to file in Tennessee. This is an important decision.
That makes your case more complicated. An attorney can help you weigh the pros and cons of filing in Tennessee or in the state where your spouse lives. If the court in Tennessee does not have jurisdiction, you may be wasting your time and money if you file here. First, you need to "serve" divorce papers on your spouse out of state. "Serving papers" means giving official notice.
A sheriff or a process server in your spouse's home state may serve process. You may also send copies by certified mail to your spouse's residence or, if you don't know where your spouse is, publish a legal notice in a newspaper selected by the court.
That depends on how much the local sheriff or private process server charges, but usually fees are under $75. Publishing a legal notice can be more expensive, however. Depending on the newspaper, you can spend $100 or more.
Technically, no. But as a practical matter, it might be a good idea. An experienced family lawyer will still need to draft your agreement to make sure everything is done correctly. A divorce is a lawsuit. Remember, there is no such thing as a standard divorce. There are so many issues to be considered that it makes sense to have a lawyer with an ethical duty to explain things and represent only your best interests. Very few lawyers will represent both parties because of the potential for a conflict of interest.
A conflict of interest happens when an attorney's duty to his or her client is compromised. An attorney who represents both spouses in a divorce might face such a conflict if a benefit to one spouse would be a detriment to the other. If one lawyer represents both spouses, the lawyer cannot advise either of them in negotiating for better settlement terms.
Tennessee law allows divorce on either fault or no-fault grounds. The no-fault grounds for divorce are:
The fault grounds for divorce are:
A mutual-consent, no-fault divorce takes about two to six months. There is a mandatory 60 day "cooling -off" period after the complaint is filed, if there are no children. If the couple has children, it takes a minimum of 90 days. A contested divorce can last years, with the average case lasting a year or more. Finally, if the spouses agree to divide a pension, it might take an additional 60 to 180 days after the divorce is granted to complete the division.
Rarely. Annulments may be available if the marriage was illegal (for example, incestuous) or based on fraud or duress. An annulment can also be had if one party was under age. The rules and applications can be complex. The effect of annulment will not render the couple's children illegitimate. No alimony is available when a marriage is annulled. Property rights will be restored as if no marriage had taken place.
In effect, a legal separation allows for the support and maintenance of a spouse without an actual divorce. The parties can sue for divorce later. Separation often doesn't make sense because it can be as expensive as a divorce. In addition, if the parties work out their differences after a divorce, the parties can always remarry.
No. If the case goes to trial, the judge will make the final determinations.
Mediators usually recommend that the parties review a settlement with independent counsel before signing. Mediation is most beneficial with custody and visitation issues, because the spouses will have to maintain an ongoing constructive relationship to successfully parent their children. Mediation works best when the parties come to the table in good faith and fully disclose their assets and debts.
Yes. The only limitation is that a person cannot change names to perpetrate a fraud. It's common for divorcing spouses to change from their married last name to the name they used when they were single.