If there is one thing that spouses considering a divorce associate with the divorce process, it is anger. Fortunately, a divorce does not have to be an angry and emotionally-driven parting. For spouses who want a divorce without the anger and infighting, an uncontested divorce may be for you.
This article will explain the nature of an uncontested divorce and Tennessee uncontested divorce law. If you still have any questions after reading this article or would like to file for an uncontested divorce, you should consult with an experienced divorce attorney.
Uncontested Divorce in Tennessee Defined
Like many states, Tennessee provides a specific mechanism for couples seeking an uncontested divorce. In Tennessee, this is called divorce because of irreconcilable differences. Irreconcilable differences simply means a breakdown of the marital relationship without the possibility of reconciliation.
In many states, irreconcilable differences simply constitutes sufficient grounds for a no-fault divorce, but in Tennessee, it is also the only way to file for an uncontested divorce. One way to think about uncontested divorce in Tennessee is that it is simply the same as a no-fault divorce. Any at-fault divorce will be a contested divorce, and any no-fault divorce is an uncontested divorce.
Requirements for Seeking a Tennessee Uncontested Divorce
To file for uncontested divorce in Tennessee, the filing spouses must meet certain requirements. Any questions about these requirements can be answered by an experienced Tennessee divorce attorney or family lawyer.
The first requirement is jurisdictional. Subject-matter jurisdiction is a question of whether a court has the authority to hear a lawsuit. For a Tennessee court to have subject matter jurisdiction over a divorce lawsuit, either one the parties must be domiciled in Tennessee or the marriage must have been formed in Tennessee. Domicile simply means that one currently resides within Tennessee and has no immediate intention to move out of state. Additionally, Tennessee has a residency requirement. To satisfy the residency requirement, either the filing party must have lived in Tennessee for at least six months, or the non-filing party must have lived in Tennessee for at least one year.
The next requirement is satisfaction of the grounds for divorce. Tennessee recognizes fifteen different grounds for divorce, but for the purposes of an uncontested divorce, the only ground that matters is the no-fault ground of irreconcilable differences. Filing for divorce under any other ground requires the filing of an additional sworn affidavit and may result in your divorce becoming contested. Irreconcilable differences simply means that the marriage has broken down for some reason and reconciliation is not possible.
Finally, Tennessee divorce law requires couples filing for no-fault uncontested divorce to sign a marital dissolution agreement. Before awarding an uncontested divorce, the court must make a finding that the marital dissolution agreement adequately provides for child custody and maintenance and equitably distributes marital property. Spouses seeking an uncontested divorce must agree on all of the terms of the divorce in the marital dissolution agreement.
On Marital Dissolution Agreements
When spouses sit down to discuss the terms of their uncontested divorce, they are required by law to sign a marital dissolution agreement. A marital dissolution agreement is NOT a formal divorce. A marital dissolution agreement is a contract between spouses that lays out their agreement and terms of their separation. A fully completed marital dissolution agreement can serve as the basis for an uncontested divorce, and may be helpful in filling out the required divorce paperwork. Prior to signing any marital dissolution agreement (or any contract with your spouse), you should have an experienced attorney review the terms of the contract for you.
At a very minimum, a marital dissolution agreement must discuss the distribution of marital property and the status of child custody, maintenance, and visitation. A fully completed marital dissolution agreement will include all of the following components:
- Agreement that irreconcilable differences exist in the marriage;
- Admission that there is no possibility of reconciliation;
- Agreement on the equitable (or fair) distribution of marital property;
- Distribution of the marital debts;
- If applicable, assignment of child custody, child maintenance (also known as child support), and visitation provisions; and
- An agreement on the amount of spousal maintenance (also known as alimony or spousal support).
Failure of the marital dissolution agreement to result in a complete agreement on any term of the divorce will result in the divorce becoming contested, which, due to the nature of no-fault and uncontested divorce law in Tennessee, could result in the dismissal of the divorce complaint.
The Process for Filing for an Uncontested Divorce in Tennessee
Once you have determined which court is the proper court for filing, the general flow of the process is follows:
- This step is optional, but you should begin by consulting a family law attorney who can either answer any questions that you may have, or who can help you file your divorce paperwork properly;
- Next, you will want to acquire the appropriate divorce forms. Fortunately, for couples seeking a divorce without the assistance of an attorney, the Tennessee Courts government website has provided a series of sample divorce forms for couples to use.1
- With the divorce forms in front of you, you and your spouse will then want to hammer out a completed marital dissolution agreement. Remember, under Tennessee law, a marital dissolution agreement is required for couples seeking an uncontested divorce.
- The filing spouse will then need to file a complaint for divorce in either the Circuit Court or Chancery Court in the county in which the residency requirement is met. Once filed, the filing spouse must serve the non-filing spouse with divorce paperwork.
- Once served, the non-filing spouse must confess to the terms of the divorce and then enter a final divorce decree.
- If all of the divorce paperwork is properly filed, a judge will sign off on the final divorce decree after the sixty-day waiting period (90 days if children were born of the marriage), thereby finalizing your uncontested divorce.
Note: This article is not legal advice. Please consult a lawyer for your specific situation.