Tennessee allows married couples to either divorce, separate, or annul a marriage.
A divorce ends a marriage, distributes marital property, and terminates each spouse’s marital rights. Tennessee has residency requirements for divorce. Typically, you must have lived in the state for at least six months.
A legal separation is like a divorce, except that the couple cannot legally remarry and retains property rights. Alimony, child custody, and child support may be awarded in a legal separation in Tennessee.
What Paperwork Do You Need to File for Divorce?
To file for divorce, you must file a series of paperwork with your county’s Chancery or Circuit Court. There are two types of divorce in Tennessee: agreed and contested. If you and your spouse agree to divorce (and meet other requirements), you can submit a simplified Request for Divorce. The forms for an agreed divorce are available at your county courthouse or online.
If your divorce is contested or involves children, you must draft a Complaint for Divorce and complete a Certificate for Divorce and Summons. The contested divorce process is more complicated and typically involves a court hearing. You should seriously consider hiring a divorce lawyer if you have minor children, significant financial assets, or your spouse is unwilling to divorce.
Once you have filed your complaint and other forms, you must serve them on your spouse (either through a process server or by certified mail). While you do not have to notify your spouse before filing divorce, it may be in your best interest. You may be able to negotiate the terms of your divorce amicably—leading to an easier divorce process. However, if you are a victim of domestic violence, consider requesting a protective order before filing for divorce.
How is Property Divided During a Divorce?
It is always best to negotiate with your spouse before going to court. However, if you cannot agree on how to split up your assets, the court will divide your property equitably. Equitable distribution does not divide your assets 50/50. Instead, the court will determine what is fair based on a series of factors (including the value of your property and each spouse’s economic circumstances).
While marital property is evenly divided between spouses, you typically allowed to keep your separate property. This includes property you acquired:
- Before the marriage,
- Inheritances, and
- Property excluded by a nuptial agreement.
However, if you commingled separate property (allowing your spouse access and the benefits of the asset), it may be considered marital property.
If you have questions about property division, contact a divorce lawyer for assistance. An experienced lawyer may be able to negotiate a fair distribution of your marital property—avoiding the time and expense of litigation.
What Should You Do If There are Children Involved?
If you and your spouse have children, you must also address child custody and child support during your divorce. If you and your spouse cannot agree on child support and custody issues, the court will award custody and support based on a series of factors and guidelines—focusing on the best interests of the child.
It is important to form a fair and appropriate child support and custody plan before you divorce. It can be difficult to modify these orders later on—and changes will result in additional attorney fees and costs.
Do You Need to Pay Alimony?
Tennessee courts weigh a series of factors before awarding alimony or spousal support. These factors include each spouse’s income, financial needs, and the length of the marriage. Alimony can be awarded on a temporary or long-term basis. (And can even be required while a divorce is pending.) An experienced family law attorney can help you understand your rights and obligations concerning spousal support.
Where Can You Find the Right Divorce Lawyer?
Divorces can quickly become contentious and complicated. If your divorce will involve a significant property division, children, or alimony consider hiring a Tennessee divorce lawyer. A lawyer will advocate on your behalf and work to secure the best possible results.