Divorce Process: How to File for Divorce in Tennessee

Divorce Process: How to File for Divorce in Tennessee

Step Action
Step 1 Meet Tennessee’s residency requirements. You or your spouse must have lived in the state for at least six months before filing for divorce.
Step 2 Determine your grounds for divorce. Tennessee allows both fault-based and no-fault divorces. Common grounds for divorce in Tennessee include irreconcilable differences, adultery, and abandonment.
Step 3 Complete the appropriate divorce forms. You can obtain the necessary forms from the Tennessee court or online.
Step 4 File the forms with the appropriate court. You will need to pay a filing fee at this time.
Step 5 Notify your spouse of the divorce filing. This is typically done through a process server or certified mail.
Step 6 Attend any necessary court hearings. This may include a temporary hearing to determine child custody and support arrangements.
Step 7 Wait for the court to issue a final divorce decree. This may take several weeks or months.

Filing for Divorce in Tennessee: An Overview

  • Residency: At least one spouse must have been a resident of Tennessee for at least six months prior to filing for divorce.
  • Grounds: Tennessee recognizes both fault and no-fault grounds for divorce. These include irreconcilable differences, adultery, desertion, cruelty, and more.
  • Petition: The person filing for divorce (the petitioner) must submit a petition to the court stating the reason(s) for seeking a divorce.
  • Serving papers: The petitioner must serve the other spouse (the respondent) with copies of all legal documents filed with the court.

It’s important to note that each county may have its own specific requirements and procedures when it comes to filing for divorce in Tennessee. It’s recommended that individuals seek out legal advice from an experienced attorney before beginning this process.


Divorce is never an easy decision to make, but sometimes it’s the best option for both parties involved. If you’re considering filing for divorce in Tennessee, it’s important to understand the process and requirements before moving forward.

The following guide will provide you with an overview of what to expect when filing for divorce in Tennessee:

  • Residency requirements
  • Grounds for divorce
  • The petition process
  • Serving papers
  • The discovery phase
  • Mandatory mediation (if applicable)
  • The trial and final judgment

This guide will break down each step of the process so that you can feel confident and prepared as you move through this difficult time.

Grounds for Divorce

It’s important to note that selecting a particular ground does not necessarily affect how property will be divided or whether alimony will be awarded. However, if you choose to use fault-based grounds for your divorce, it could potentially affect child custody arrangements.

Residency Requirements

If neither spouse meets these residency requirements, then they may need to consider waiting until they meet them or pursuing a legal separation instead.

Waiting Period

After filing the divorce petition, you must wait for a certain amount of time before your divorce can be finalized. In Tennessee, there is a mandatory waiting period that varies based on whether the grounds for divorce are no-fault or fault-based:

  • No-fault: If both parties agree to the divorce and there are no contested issues, the waiting period is 60 days.
  • Fault-based: The waiting period is 60 days if there are contested issues, such as property division or child custody. However, if the grounds for divorce are adultery or inappropriate marital conduct, then there is no waiting period.

It’s important to note that this waiting period only applies to uncontested divorces. If you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement on all issues related to your divorce, it may take much longer to finalize.

Types of Divorce

No matter which type you choose, it’s important to have legal representation throughout the process. A skilled attorney can help guide you through the complicated legal proceedings associated with divorce in Tennessee and protect your rights every step of the way.

Getting Started: Preparing for Divorce

In addition to these steps mentioned above here are a few more tips:

  • Avoid making any major decisions before filing for divorce such as purchasing new real estate or changing jobs.
  • If possible try not make any big purchases that could affect your joint finances before dividing assets during the settlement stage

Preparing yourself beforehand will help ensure that you’re ready for the upcoming process both emotionally and practically.

Legal Assistance

If you’re concerned about the cost of hiring an attorney, there may be low-cost or pro bono options available through legal aid organizations or bar associations. It’s also worth considering whether it would be more costly to make mistakes during the divorce process without professional help than it would be to pay for an attorney upfront.

Financial Preparation

In addition to these potential costs, it’s important to also take stock of your personal finances and prepare accordingly:

  • Gather financial documents: Make sure you have copies of all joint bank account statements, investment accounts, retirement accounts, credit card statements and tax returns before filing for divorce.
  • Create a budget: Understand what your current expenses are and create a budget moving forward so that you’re able to live within your means after separating from your spouse.

Child Custody and Support

In some cases, parents may be required to attend mediation to try and come up with a parenting plan that works for everyone involved. If an agreement cannot be reached, the court will make a decision about custody.

When it comes to child support, Tennessee uses an income shares model which takes into account both parents’ incomes as well as any special expenses related to raising the child. The amount of support ordered will depend on several factors including:

  • The number of children involved
  • The financial resources of both parents
  • The standard needs associated with raising children in Tennessee

Property Division

If spouses cannot agree on how to divide their marital assets themselves or through mediation with attorneys present, then a judge will make the final decision about how to split up their shared belongings. Factors that may impact this decision could include each spouse’s contributions to the acquisition of these assets as well as each spouse’s overall economic situation.

Filing for Divorce

If you have children together, additional forms may be required as part of the petition process:

  • The Permanent Parenting Plan (PPP) outlines each parent’s responsibilities related to child custody and visitation.
  • The Child Support Worksheet calculates how much child support will be paid by one parent to another based on income levels and other factors.

Filing for divorce can feel overwhelming, but working with an experienced attorney can help ease some of these burdens. A lawyer can guide you through each step of this process while ensuring that your rights are protected throughout proceedings.

Choosing the Correct Forms

When completing these forms, pay close attention to detail and provide accurate information. Errors or omissions could delay the process or even result in having your case dismissed. Some key pieces of information that will likely be required include:

  • Your name and contact information
  • The names and ages of any children involved
  • Your grounds for divorce
  • A list of all assets and debts

Completing the Forms

You may also need to file additional forms depending on your specific situation. It’s important to carefully read through all instructions and requirements before submitting any paperwork to avoid delays or potential issues later on in the process. If you’re unsure about how to fill out certain sections or what information is required, don’t hesitate to reach out to a lawyer for guidance.

Filing the Forms

You can obtain these forms online or through your local courthouse. Once completed, make at least two copies of each form – one for yourself and one to serve on your spouse. You may also want to keep an extra copy on hand in case something gets lost or damaged during delivery.

Serving the Divorce Papers

Here are some things to keep in mind when serving divorce papers:

  • You can’t personally serve your spouse: You cannot deliver the papers yourself. Instead, someone else who is not involved in the case must deliver them for you.
  • Hire a professional process server: A professional process server will know how to properly serve legal documents and provide proof of service if needed.
  • Mail or waiver option: In some cases, it may be possible to mail copies of the paperwork directly to your spouse or have them sign a waiver indicating that they received copies without being served personally.

It’s important that all proper steps are followed when serving divorce papers, as failure to do so could delay or even prevent your divorce from proceeding through the court system smoothly.

The Divorce Process: What to Expect

It’s important to note that every divorce case is unique. Depending on the circumstances of your marriage and how amicable you and your spouse are during the process, it may take longer or shorter than anticipated.

Temporary Orders

If you need temporary orders during your Tennessee divorce case, you will need to file a motion with the court requesting them. Once filed, a hearing will be scheduled where both parties will have an opportunity to present their cases before a judge. After considering all of the evidence presented at the hearing, the judge will make a ruling regarding any necessary temporary orders.

  • It’s important to note that it’s often easier to reach agreements on these issues outside of court through negotiation or mediation instead of going through a potentially contentious hearing.
  • If both parties agree on how certain aspects should be handled temporarily during proceedings it can help minimize stress and prevent unnecessary legal fees from piling up

Discovery Process

During the discovery process, the following may occur:

  • Interrogatories: written questions that must be answered under oath
  • Depositions: oral interviews conducted by an attorney with the opposing party or witnesses
  • Requests for documents: including tax returns, bank statements, credit card statements, employment records and more.

This process can be time-consuming and expensive but it’s essential in order for each party to make informed decisions about how to proceed with their divorce. It’s recommended that individuals seek out legal counsel during this phase in order to ensure they are properly representing their interests.


In Tennessee, mandatory mediation is required in certain divorce cases. This means that before a trial can take place, the parties must attend mediation to try and reach an agreement on any issues related to child custody or support, alimony, and property division.

The mediator is a neutral third party who will work with both spouses to help them come to a mutually acceptable solution. If an agreement is reached during mediation, it will be put in writing and presented to the court for approval. If an agreement cannot be reached through mediation, then the case may proceed to trial.


Here’s what you can expect during the trial phase of your divorce:

  • The court will hear opening statements from both attorneys outlining their arguments for why their client should receive certain assets or custody arrangements.
  • Evidence may be presented by both sides including financial documents, emails, text messages, and witness testimony.
  • Each party has an opportunity to cross-examine witnesses presented by the other side.
  • After all evidence has been presented, each attorney will give closing arguments summarizing their client’s position and why they believe they are entitled to specific outcomes in the divorce.

The judge will then issue a final ruling on all contested issues of your divorce. Once this ruling is made, it becomes legally binding for both parties involved. It’s important that you work with an experienced family law attorney who can help guide you through this complex process and ensure that your interests are protected every step of the way.

Final Decree of Divorce

If you have any concerns about the final decree or feel that it does not accurately reflect your agreement with your former spouse, you should speak with an attorney right away. Once signed by both parties and approved by the court, changes to this document can be difficult to make.

After the Divorce: Moving Forward

Remember that healing takes time and everyone moves at their own pace. Don’t feel like you need to rush through this process – give yourself grace and take things one day at a time.

Post-Divorce Modifications

The following are some common post-divorce modifications that individuals in Tennessee may consider:

  • Child support modification: If either parent experiences a significant change in income or if there is a substantial change in the child’s needs (such as medical expenses), child support payments may be modified.
  • Custody modification: As children get older or situations change, parents may want to modify their custody arrangements. This could include changes to visitation schedules or even a switch from joint custody to sole custody.
  • Alimony modification: If one party experiences a significant change in income or if they remarry, alimony payments may be adjusted accordingly.

If you feel that you need to make modifications to your divorce agreement, it’s recommended that you work with an experienced family law attorney who can help guide you through the process and ensure that your interests are protected.

Enforcing Divorce Decrees

If you need to enforce your Tennessee divorce decree, here are some steps you can take:

  • Contact an attorney: It’s always best to seek legal advice from an experienced family law attorney who can guide you through this process and help ensure that your rights are protected.
  • Filing a motion for contempt: If your ex-spouse has failed to comply with court-ordered child support payments or visitation schedules, filing a motion for contempt may be appropriate.
  • Modifying custody or support arrangements: If circumstances have changed since your initial divorce decree was issued – such as job loss or relocation – you may need to modify custody or support arrangements.

In any case where enforcement is necessary, it’s important to work with an experienced attorney who can help protect your interests and ensure that all parties involved comply with the terms of the original decree.

Co-Parenting after Divorce

  • Communication is key: Keep open lines of communication with your ex-spouse about schedules, school events, and any other important information related to the children.
  • Be flexible: Things come up unexpectedly, so be willing to work together on schedule changes or adjustments when necessary.
  • Avoid negativity: Refrain from speaking negatively about your ex-spouse in front of the children or using them as messengers between you and your ex-spouse.
  • Create consistent routines: Establish consistent rules and routines at both households to provide stability for the children.

If you’re struggling with co-parenting after divorce, consider seeking out counseling or mediation services. These resources can provide additional support and guidance as you navigate this new chapter in your life.

Coping with Divorce

  • Seek support from friends and family who care about you
  • Consider seeing a therapist or counselor to work through your emotions
  • Treat yourself kindly by doing things that bring you joy, such as exercising or reading a good book
  • Avoid negative coping mechanisms like alcohol or drugs
  • Stay organized by keeping track of important documents related to your divorce
  • Maintain open communication with your attorney and follow their advice throughout the process.

Coping with divorce is never easy, but taking care of yourself during this time will help ensure that you come out on the other side stronger and more resilient than ever before.

Conclusion: Final Thoughts on Filing for Divorce in Tennessee

Remember, while filing for divorce can be overwhelming at times, there is light at the end of the tunnel. With patience and perseverance (and a good lawyer), you will get through this difficult period in your life.

FAQ on ‘Divorce Process: How to File for Divorce in Tennessee’

Q: What are the grounds for divorce in Tennessee?

A: Tennessee recognizes both fault and no-fault grounds for divorce. No-fault grounds include irreconcilable differences or living separate and apart without cohabitation for two years. Fault grounds include adultery, desertion, cruelty, conviction of a felony, or drug/alcohol addiction.

Q: How do I start the divorce process in Tennessee?

A: The person seeking the divorce must file a Complaint for Divorce with their local circuit court. This document must be served to the other spouse by a sheriff’s deputy or private process server.

Q: What is the waiting period before a divorce is final in Tennessee?

A: There is a mandatory 60-day waiting period after filing for divorce before it can be finalized by the court.

Q: Do I need an attorney to file for divorce in Tennessee?

A: While it is not required to hire an attorney, it is highly recommended as navigating the legal system and ensuring all necessary paperwork is completed correctly can be complex and overwhelming.