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What is the basic timeline for a divorce in Tennessee?

Where you live can impact how long it takes to get divorced. In Tennessee, even those who are in complete agreement about a divorce must wait at least 60 days to finalize the process. If they have minor children, the state bumps this up to 90 days. The courts refer to this as the “cooling off” period.

There are a number of other factors that will impact the time it takes to finalize a divorce. One is whether the divorce is contested or not. A contested divorce, or one where the couple cannot agree to the terms of the divorce, generally takes longer than an uncontested, or amicable, divorce. Other factors include the complexity of property and whether or not children are present. With that in mind, the following provides a general timeline that can give you a better idea of how long it could take to finalize a divorce.

#1: Filing for divorce

If the divorce is uncontested, the spouses can file the divorce paperwork together. This includes the Divorce Complaint, Marital Dissolution Agreement, and Agreed Permanent Parenting Plan. The Complaint for Divorce requires information about the date and location of the marriage, separation and whether moving forward with a fault or no fault grounds for the divorce. You will also need to include information about assets and debts as well as information about any children if present.

The quickest way to finalize a divorce in Tennessee is to qualify for an agreed divorce. This is available for those who meet the following requirements:

  • Live in Tennessee. Both parties must either have lived in Tennessee for at least the last 6 months or live here when they decide to divorce.
  • Children. The parties must not have children together under the age of 18, disabled, or in high school. Neither spouse can be pregnant.
  • Intention. Both must want to end the marriage.
  • Property. The parties must not own buildings, businesses, or have retirement benefits together.
  • Alimony. Both parties must also agree to proposed alimony and how to divide property.

It is important to note that determining whether property is separate or marital for the purposes of asset division is not always easy.

If the parties contest the divorce, one may file this paperwork and officially serve, or deliver it, to the other spouse. This is done either through use of a process server or a Sheriff’s Deputy. It is possible to complete service through mail, but the receiving spouse will need to sign a Waiver of Service of Process in order to satisfy the service requirement. Once served, that spouse then has an additional set amount of time to file a response. In Tennessee, this is generally 30 days.

#2: Answer and Counter-Complaint

The served spouse can file an Answer and Counter-Complaint. This allows the served spouse to either agree with or deny the information within the Complaint for Divorce.

#3: Negotiations

The divorcing couple can move forward with negotiations and attempt to develop a divorce settlement agreement that both parties agree to follow. In some cases, the parties may choose to move forward with discovery, or the gathering of evidence to help guide negotiations. This can help to provide information about assets, income, and, if the grounds for divorce include allegations of fault, evidence to support those allegations.

#4: Trial

If negotiations fail, the divorce may end up in court. This means a court decides the outcome of the divorce. Once a court is involved, the process takes much longer and can range from a couple of months to years depending on how much the divorcing couple disputes during the process.

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