Your Complete Guide to an Uncontested Divorce in Tennessee
If you’re on this page, there’s a good chance you’re contemplating getting a divorce. A divorce, under any circumstances, is an emotionally difficult process. That said, not all divorces have to be psychologically devastating and cost a fortune. The easiest and least expensive method of divorcing your spouse is through an uncontested divorce. Although most people understand the general concept of an uncontested divorce (not fighting over things), every legal proceeding contains certain nuances that may trip up the unprepared. If you want to learn everything about an uncontested divorce in Tennessee, this page is for you.
What is an Uncontested Divorce?
In Tennessee, every divorce must have at least one “ground”, i.e., a legal basis. Common grounds for divorce are:
- Inappropriate Marital Conduct,
- Habitual Drunkenness or Abuse of Narcotic Drugs, and
- Irreconcilable Differences
With the exception of irreconcilable differences, all of the grounds for divorce are based on a spouse’s fault. Put another way, to obtain a divorce on a fault-based ground, you must prove that your spouse is guilty of that particular ground.
With an irreconcilable differences divorce, the parties are saying that they have differences so great that they cannot continue to live together as a married couple and there is no way that their marriage can be reconciled. Irreconcilable differences is not a fault-based ground, thus the parties are not alleging any fault by either party.
Note: Just because parties are pursuing an irreconcilable differences divorce, doesn’t mean that one spouse isn’t more at fault or “guilty” of one of the fault-based grounds; it simply means that the parties aren’t using that fault as the legal basis of their divorce (even though it might have been the actual cause of it).
To obtain an irreconcilable differences divorce in Tennessee, you must agree on every aspect of the dissolution of your marriage. This means that there must be complete agreements on the division of all property, debts, and (if there are any minor children) all co-parenting arrangements. If there are any disagreements, even relatively trivial ones, you cannot obtain a divorce on the ground of irreconcilable differences. Because of this, irreconcilable differences divorces are also known as uncontested or agreed divorces.
How Long Does it Take to Get an Uncontested Divorce in Tennessee?
An uncontested divorce is the fastest way to get divorced in Tennessee. While it’s true that some divorces can last for several months or even years, those are the cases where spouses are fighting each other over every detail. An uncontested divorce can be finalized in as little as two or three months.
Why would it take even 2-3 months? Tennessee law (T.C.A. 36-4-101) provides for what is commonly referred to as a “cooling off period”. This law requires that divorces be on file for at least 60 days (or 90 days if the parties have children under the age of 18) before the they can be finalized. There is no way around the statutory waiting period. This means that the earliest a divorce could possibly be granted in Tennessee is on the 61st day (or 91st day if minor children are involved) after filing.
How Much Does an Uncontested Divorce in Tennessee Cost?
An uncontested divorce is the cheapest method of getting divorced in Tennessee. This makes sense; after all, if there is nothing to fight over, it should be a financially streamlined process.
There are two primary fees associated with an uncontested divorce:
- Filing Fees, and
- Attorney Fees.
Every legal action (including divorces) requires the payment of a filing fee before the case can be initiated. Filing fees vary from county to county but can usually be found on the website of the clerk of the court that issues divorces; they typically range between $200 and $400. Below are links to the divorce courts of some of the more populated counties in Tennessee:
- Davidson County Circuit Court
- Shelby County Circuit Court
- Knox County Chancery Court
- Williamson County Chancery Court
- Maury County Chancery Court
If you cannot locate filing fees to your county online, feel free to call the respective clerk’s office for guidance.
If you choose to use an attorney, there will be fees associated with that representation. The fees you pay a lawyer for an uncontested divorce depend entirely on the lawyer. Obviously, a well-known and respected lawyer in a large city will charge more than a general practitioner in the more rural areas of the state. Most attorneys will quote you a retainer and charge their normal hourly rate. Total fees can range anywhere from $750 to $3000 and up.
Whenever possible, the lawyers at Parks, Bryant & Snyder, PLLC prefer to offer flat fees. We feel that clients prefer the certainty of knowing exactly how much a service will cost them. Due to the predictability associated with uncontested divorces, our firm charges a flat fee of $1000 for an uncontested divorce without minor children and $1500 for an uncontested divorce with minor children.
How Do you File an Uncontested Divorce in Tennessee?
The commencement of an uncontested divorce is substantially similar to the initial filing of a contested divorce: they both begin with the filing of a Complaint for Divorce (see our page on Divorce to learn more about that process). The primary difference is that, with an uncontested divorce, it is very common to file everything (the Divorce Complaint, Marital Dissolution Agreement and – if applicable – Agreed Permanent Parenting Plan) at once.
Filing all these documents simultaneously serves several purposes:
- It waives service of process on the Defendant (saving approximately $50);
- It waives the requirement that the Defendant file an Answer to the Complaint;
- It reduces trips to the courthouse and the hassle associated with that.
Do I Need a Lawyer to get an Uncontested Divorce in Tennessee?
Like everything in law, you do not have to have an attorney. You can file and obtain an uncontested divorce on your own. That said, a lawyer will help make sure that everything is done correctly the first time. We often see unrepresented people show up to court thinking they are about to have a judge sign their final divorce papers, only to be turned away because of some technicality or deficiency in their paperwork. A lawyer would have ensured this was properly taken care of well before the final court appearance.
Generally, because of the relative inexpensiveness of hiring an attorney to guide you through an uncontested divorce, it is worth the cost to take care of things properly on the front end and not risk having to stay married to someone you don’t want to for any longer than is necessary.
Is an Uncontested Divorce Right for Me?
You may very well wish to pursue an uncontested divorce, however, it takes two to tango. If you and your spouse cannot agree on how to dissolve your marriage, then you will not be able to initiate an uncontested divorce. This doesn’t mean that you are stuck having to go to trial, it simply means the divorce will not commence with an agreement in place.
If you need help deciding if this is the right process for you, our experienced family law attorneys can consult with you help explain all your options. Please contact us and we’ll guide you through any divorce, contested or not.