Contested Divorce in Tennessee
When two spouses are unable to reach an agreement over any and all terms and conditions in a divorce, it is known as a Contested Divorce.
The contested divorce procedure is time consuming and expensive, so an uncontested divorce should always be sought before resorting to filing for a contested divorce.
What every contested divorce case entails will be different based on the actions of each spouse throughout the proceedings and the terms and conditions which will have to be laid out before a court during the time of the hearing.
Furthermore, the entire contested divorce process can range anywhere from a few weeks to multiple years after a complaint has been filed. That’s why filing for a contested divorce without attorney help can be detrimental to the progression of your life after you file for divorce.
Moreover, the average cost of contested divorce is around $7,500, making it much more economically sound to file for an uncontested divorce when possible.
However, this may not always be a feasible option, so an experienced contested divorce TN lawyer will be able to help navigate you through the difficult contested divorce process.
Next, we’ll go over the contested divorce process from start to finish.
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The Contested Divorce Process
The contested divorce process in TN, though complex, can be broken down into manageable steps or tasks which will have to be completed in order to legally finalize the divorce. A general contested divorce adheres to a comprehensive timeline of events, described below:
Step 1) Filing the Complaint for Divorce
- Every divorce in Tennessee is initiated by the filing of what is called a Complaint for Divorce.
- Filing a complaint for divorce notifies the court that one spouse involved in a marriage is seeking a divorce.
- Fees for filing a Complaint will vary depending on which county it is being filed in.
- However, the current range in Tennessee starts at $184.50 for divorces involving no minor children and $259.50 for those involving minor children.
Step 2) Servicing of Summons and Complaint on Spouse
- Following the filing of a Complaint for Divorce, the documentation must then be served on the other spouse including a Summons which requires that spouse to respond to the divorce papers.
- Both the Complaint and the Summons may be served in numerous different ways, including by Sheriff’s deputy, private process server, or certified mail with return receipt requested.
- After having been appropriately served the divorce papers, the spouse who was served will have thirty (30) days to file a response or respond and file a counterclaim.
Step 3) Written Discovery
- Following the filing of the initial pleadings, or the divorce papers, a preliminary set of of written discovery requests will usually be swapped between the two spouses.
- This written discovery will need to be responded to in its entirety within a thirty (30) day period starting when such discovery is received.
- Written discovery may include the following documents: Interrogatories, Requests for Admission, Requests for Production of Documents, and more.
Step 4) Mediation
- Mediation is an informal process of settlement whereby each spouse, along with their respective lawyers, will meet with a mediator.
- A mediator is an experienced matrimonial attorney with special training in the process by which individuals will settle divorce cases.
- In order for a trial to be set before a judge, a couple is required to complete mediation.
- Before the initial meeting with a mediator, both party’s attorneys will prepare and submit to the mediator a Mediation Statement, which elaborates on each respective party’s position in regards to any issues in the case.
- The objective of mediation is to allow each party to hear the unbiased legal opinion of the mediator regarding what strengths and weaknesses lie in each respective party’s case for the purpose of settlement.
Step 5) Depositions
- Following the conclusion of the written discovery, and in the event that mediation has failed, an attorney will most likely request of the other spouse or any other relevant fact witnesses to the case a Discovery Deposition.
- The objective of depositions is to conclusively determine what the other spouse and any fact witnesses will have to testify during the trial.
- Such witnesses’ testimonies will be recorded by a court reporter, and will stand at trial, meaning testimonies cannot be recanted after the deposition.
Step 6) Pendente Lite Hearings
- Also known as Temporary Hearings, Pendente Lite Hearings take place early on in divorce cases prior to the final trial.
- A temporary order hearing will be the first time your presence in Divorce Court before a judge will be required.
- Most commonly, issues heard in Pendente Lite hearings will require the court to issue orders in regards to spousal support, child support, parenting time and schedules, and what contributions will be made towards marital expenses.
- The court’s primary objective throughout these hearings will be to maintain the status quo during the divorce process.
- The intent at this point is to ensure all debts and expenses can be covered in a timely manner to avoid repossession of property, foreclosure of real estate, disconnection of utilities, and cancellation of insurance policies.
- It is of utmost importance to present the case favorably in the eyes of the court during Pendente Lite hearings, as Tennessee judges will typically not modify temporary orders in place prior to the case’s final hearing.
Step 7) Trial Preparations
- Most divorce cases will be able to settle during mediation or prior to the final divorce trial.
- Typically, the preparation time spent by a contested divorce lawyer in TN preparing exhibits, acquainting with fact witnesses, and concluding legal arguments or positions.
- During this period, most contested divorce attorneys will schedule meetings with their client on a weekly basis to review exhibits and testimonies in order to adequately prepare for trial.
- Finally, seventy-two (72) hours before the trial, the contested divorce lawyer will prepare and file with the court a Proposed Division of Assets and Liabilities as well as a Rule 22 Statement of Witness and Exhibits.
Step 8) Trial
- In any divorce trial, the goal is for both sides to present evidence to the court in order to convince the judge to acknowledge the outstanding facts of the case from your viewpoint, so as to make the final call on your case’s issues in your favor.
- The judge will receive testimony from any witnesses as well as evidence by means of exhibits through each witness.
- Through this process, the judge will present particular Findings of Facts, which will undergo the application of Tennessee divorce law to render a Final Decree of Divorce.
- At the beginning of the divorce trial, both party’s respective attorneys will make brief opening statements. These statements will both summarize the anticipated facts that will be presented throughout the process of the trial AND propose what ruling the judge should make on the case’s issues.
- Following opening statements, the Petitioner (the person who filed for divorce) will take the stand, calling forth witnesses as well as presenting exhibits for the consideration of the court.
- Once each witnesses has presented their testimony, the opposing attorney may ask further questions, a process which is also known as cross examination.
- After the Petitioner rests, the Respondent may then call their witnesses to the stand and present their exhibits.
- Once every witness has testified completely, and every exhibit has been entered, each party’s attorney will be given the opportunity to offer their final closing argument, briefly summing all noteworthy facts drawn out during the witnesses’ testimonies and presentation of exhibits with the intent to convince the judge to rule in their favor.
Step 7) Post-Trial
- Once the trial has concluded, both parties have the opportunity to file a Rule 59/60 motion to Alter or amend the final Judgement.
- In addition, a party that is not satisfied with the case’s results can file an appeal to the Tennessee Court of Appeals within thirty (30) days of entry.
Hire A Contested Divorce Lawyer with Experience
Nashville Law Offices, PLLC has been handling difficult contested divorce cases in Tennessee for more than 25 years. Throughout this time, our staff has been able to develop tried and true methods of achieving success in complex divorce cases. Contact our office today by phone or fill out an online contact form to schedule your free first meeting with a trusted Nashville contested divorce lawyer.