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GETTING A DIVORCE IN TENNESSEE

Legal Steps/What to Expect

Initial Consultation and Filing the Complaint

The initial consultation normally takes between forty-five minutes and two hours, depending upon the complexity of your case. When we first meet, I will want to discuss with you the circumstances of your divorce. I will therefore need to know the reasons for the divorce, whether you have children, and what your financial situation is (including what you own and your debt situation). I will then give you an estimate of the costs of getting a divorce (with an agreed divorce, it is almost always a predictable flat fee). I will also make recommendations to you to help prepare you for the divorce process, including legal strategies, psychological and practical considerations. I always try to provide you a comfortable place to talk.

The Complaint

Getting a divorce involves first filing a complaint for divorce. In it, the spouse who is filing for divorce ("the plaintiff") will allege grounds for the divorce.

Some of the most frequent grounds for divorce include:

1. Irreconcilable differences.

2. Stipulated grounds.

3. Inappropriate marital conduct.

4. Adultery.

5. Habitual drunkenness/abuse of narcotics contracted after the marriage.

Please see T.C.A. 36-4-101 for more information.



Irreconcilable Differences

This is the most common basis for an agreed divorce and Tennessee’s version of a "no fault" divorce. An irreconcilable differences divorce does not require us to tell anyone - including the court - the grounds for divorce, so nobody knows your business. It also may be the recommended basis for a divorce even if other grounds (such as adultery) could be alleged, especially if you have been married for a short while, have no children and have limited assets and debts. It is the most common way to get a divorce if both spouses agree to everything.

With an irreconcilable differences divorce, the couple agrees about who will receive what property and debts. When all of this has been agreed to, we will prepare a marital dissolution agreement (known as an "MDA") that lays out who gets what property and debts.

In Tennessee, there is a 60 day waiting period before your divorce hearing can occur if you and your spouse have no children. There is a 90 day waiting period if you do have children.

If there are children involved, then a parenting plan will also be prepared. This document explains to the parents and the court how the parental responsibilities will be handled for the children. This is a lengthy document that shows where the children will live, who will pay child support and when the children will stay with the other parent. It also explains who will make decisions for the children for each of the most important areas of a child’s life (such as education and religion).

Lawyers refer to an irreconcilable differences divorce as an "i.d. divorce".



Psychological Aspects

I am not a mental health professional, but I am sensitive to what you are going through and what you may go through in the future. Comparing a divorce to a death (of a dream) is a very real comparison because the grieving process is very similar. In fact, mental health professionals have seen that very similar stages occur when someone experiences a divorce as when someone experiences the death of a loved one.

Children often experience the most pain in a divorce. Paying particular attention to their needs - especially when going through a painful divorce - can be very difficult. As a result, the Tennessee General Assembly now requires divorcing parents to attend seminars to assist them in focusing on the needs of the children going through a divorce to reduce the potential harm that may occur. Although painful, when properly managed, there need not be long term harm on the children.

There is help and comfort available. I will try to assist you in identifying the need (or benefit) of participating in self help groups or receiving counseling from a psychologist, psychiatrist or other mental health professional. I will also try to refer you to certain resources available at your local bookstore or on the internet.