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How to File for Divorce in Tennessee without a Lawyer?

Getting a divorce in Tennessee becomes complex if a couple has shared assets such as a retirement account, marital property such as a home, or children. The more there is to settle, the more complicated a divorce becomes in Tennessee.

Fault vs. No-fault divorce in Tennessee

Tennessee offers both fault-based and no-fault grounds for divorce. Hence, marital faults, including neglect, substance abuse, and adultery, can be considered when a couple seeks a divorce in Tennessee. Fault-based grounds include:

  1. Adultery;
  2. Impotence;
  3. Willful desertion without cause for at least one year;
  4. Felony conviction;
  5. The wife was pregnant from another man at the time of the marriage;
  6. Alcohol abuse or drug addiction;
  7. Refusal to be a part of the other spouse’s life;
  8. Violence or abusive behavior;
  9. Emotional abuse/humiliation;
  10.  Refusal to provide for the other spouse (neglect).

When a fault-based ground is chosen, the court must hear facts proving the misconduct took place before granting a divorce on those grounds. This will require court hearings and legal representation.

To simplify the process, Tennessee also has two options for no-fault divorce:

  1. Irreconcilable differences
  2. Two years separation for a couple that has no minor children

Irreconcilable differences as grounds for divorce means that the spouses no longer get along and their marriage cannot be fixed. Either spouse is blamed, and since both spouses are in agreement, nobody has to prove anything in court. 

Requirements for getting a divorce in Tennessee

  • The grounds for divorce should be properly classified as fault or no-fault, as have been defined above.
  • Before filing for divorce, at least one of the spouses must have resided in Tennessee for at least six months.

 When these requirements are met, one of the spouses can file for a divorce.

Is separation a must before filing for divorce in Tennessee?

No, the spouses don’t need to have separate before getting a divorce in Tennessee unless they intend to use the two-year separation with no minor children as grounds for getting a divorce, then separation before a divorce becomes an essential requirement.

Applying for divorce in Tennessee

The procedure for filing for a divorce will vary depending on whether it is a contested or an uncontested divorce. An uncontested divorce is also known as an agreed divorce. 

In the case of an uncontested divorce, the spouses are in agreement over all matters. Going to a trial is not required, and neither is faulting the other. In an uncontested case, there may not even be a need to involve a lawyer.

In this case, both the spouses can complete and file the divorce papers on their own. In this case, the divorce-related paperwork will include the Agreed Permanent Parenting Plan (if the couple has minor children), Marital Dissolution Agreement, and the Divorce Complaint. This way of getting a divorce is quick and easy. The most difficult part becomes filling out the forms.

Couples involved in an uncontested divorce can use the services of online divorce companies to handle the paperwork if they don’t want to do it themselves and don’t want to hire an attorney. Online platforms offer a fast and affordable solution to simplify the paperwork preparation process.

Let go through the steps of completing an uncontested divorce without an attorney:

  1. Complete the paperwork

Completing the Divorce Complaint and related documents is the first step for filing for a divorce in Tennessee. It allows the divorce process to get underway. Through the paperwork, the court understands why you want a dissolution of marriage and how you want to handle property division, child custody, and support.

The Complaint for Divorce will require personal information, such as the date and place of your marriage, the date of separation, names, ages, addresses, etc. Similarly, the petitioner will have to provide a fault or no-fault ground for the divorce.

Though getting a complete divorce online isn’t possible, spouses looking to save time and money on paperwork preparation can seek assistance from online divorce companies. It is a fast and inexpensive process that only involves completing an online questionnaire about your details. After, you will receive your court-ready documents in around two business days, along with filing instructions. 

Keep in mind that only uncontested divorces qualify for online divorce services, so be sure that you agree with your spouse about custody of minor children, assets and debt division, and support to avoid surprises and issues later in the case. Your settlement agreement with your spouse should be put in writing and submitted to the court before the final hearing.

Upon completing the complaint about divorce, the divorcing couple should review the information provided to be double sure if all facts are accurate. The complaint forms are then signed in the presence of a notary. Make two copies of all documents (one for each spouse), then file the documents with the court.

2. Filing the forms

The next step is submitting the original documents to your county’s clerk of court for filing. They should be filed at the local county court where the respondent (or the petitioner’s spouse) resides. The petitioner can also file for a divorce in the county where the divorcing couple resided before they separated. 

The filing spouse will need to pay a filing fee. This fee is in addition to the cost of any service used for the paperwork preparation. In many cases, the fees associated with the preparation and filing will make up nearly the entire cost of the divorce. 

Depending on the case’s complexity, additional costs could include lawyer fees, financial experts, legal assistance, etc.

After the filing fee is paid, the court will stamp the documents with a case number officially initiation the divorce process. If the filing spouse cannot afford the filing fees, they can request to postpone filing fees.

3. Serve your spouse

After the case is filed, the Complaint and the Summons have to be forwarded to your spouse. There are several options for serving your spouse. Using a Sheriff’s Deputy or a professional process server is the most common. Service by mail is also allowed in Tennessee.

Following the serving of the Complaint and Summons, your spouse will have 30 days to file an Answer and Counter-Complaint. In case your spouse is in the military, on active duty, or deployed, they will get a longer time to respond.

With the Answer and Counter-Complaint provision, your spouse gets an opportunity to accept or deny your allegations. They can then ask the court for what they desire. 

Alternatively, in an uncontested divorce, the service process can be skipped if your spouse is willing to sign a Waiver of Service of Process.

4. Submit your Settlement Agreement

The next step, in the case of many divorce processes, is settlement negotiations. These negotiations may occur amongst the spouses alone, using lawyers, or using a neutral third-party, known as a mediator. All agreements must be put in writing and submitted to the court in a Settlement Agreement. 

When a settlement agreement cannot be reached, the case becomes a contested divorce and then involves a long drawn out court trial followed by the court making the final decisions for the spouses. 

5. Attend parenting classes

Before their divorce is approved, all divorcing parents in Tennessee need to take a 4-hour educational seminar on parenting.

6. Final Hearing

The judge will review your paperwork and settlement agreement at a final hearing. If everything is done right, they will sign the divorce decree, officially ending your marriage.

How important is the attorney’s aid for filing a divorce in Tennessee?

One does not need to have an attorney to file a divorce in Tennessee. But it is recommendable that you get in touch with an attorney before filing for a divorce. This will enable all potential issues to be addressed. 

A DIY divorce is the cheapest way to get a divorce in Tennessee, but the more complicated your case, the more critical it is to have legal representation (or at least get legal advice).

A lawyer’s services become indispensable when there significant assets or your spouse is working with a lawyer.

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