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The Tennessee divorce process

Divorce is known to be a long, stressful, and often complex process. There are many steps a couple must take before they can officially divorce, so the whole thing can seem very overwhelming. Some may not even know how to take the first steps in initiating a divorce. Here is the basic process of what a divorce looks like, and the steps couples should know about when considering it.

1. Divorce petition

In order to initiate the divorce process, one spouse needs to write a petition for divorce. This is filed in state court to request a divorce between the two parties and state the spouse's reason for requesting divorce. In Tennessee, a person may file for divorce either on fault or no-fault grounds. No-fault grounds usually refer to irreconcilable differences or general incompatibility, while fault could include anything from a spouse committing adultery to a spouse committing a crime or abusing alcohol/drugs.

2. Service of process

Once the petition is written, it must be delivered to the other spouse and both parties must agree to it. The one who wrote the petition must also file proof that the petition was given to their spouse. Often times, the petition is served, or delivered, to the other spouse by someone such as a sheriff. The other party must respond, either by agreeing and signing or by disagreeing to the information or terms laid out in the petition.

If they agree to the petition, this can greatly speed up the divorce process and initially avoid a court hearing, which also saves money for both parties. A response must be filed within 30 days.

3. Division of assets

Next, both parties must disclose all possible information about their assets, income, property, etc. Child custody must also be discussed at this time if relevant. It is possible to negotiate assets, custody, and other relevant terms without a court hearing. If both parties reach a mutual agreement without the need for a hearing, an official document of the parties' agreement is drafted and signed by court.

Agreeing to terms outside of court makes the process much quicker, less expensive, and usually much less stressful. However, this is not an option for everyone. Sometimes parties are simply unable to agree on certain matters or a court hearing may bring a greater sense of closure to the process. If the parties cannot or do not wish to agree outside of court, a trial will be held to determine how assets will be divided and what the terms of child custody will be.

Once court signs an agreement of terms, there may be a waiting period before the marriage is officially dissolved. After a divorce, both parties must follow the terms laid out in the agreement or they can be held in contempt of court.

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Jack P. Sherman, Attorney at Law
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