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Frequently Asked Questions About Divorce in Tennessee

Answers from family law attorneys in Murfreesboro

For most people, the divorce process is a difficult and emotional time. Losing the stability of your home, your marriage and your family life can make it seem like you will never recover. Fortunately, with time and the right legal representation, most people are able to move on and start enjoying life again. At McCarter | East PLLC in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, our attorneys are committed to making the divorce process as painless as possible.

We can answer any of your questions about getting divorce in Tennessee, including:

We focus on keeping our clients informed at all steps of the process and involved in any decision-making and strategy. By staying in contact with our clients, we hope to alleviate stress and worry.

Contact a Murfreesboro divorce attorney for answers to all of your questions

At McCarter | East PLLC, our attorneys are happy to answer your questions. We help clients in both contested and uncontested divorces, as well as collaborative divorces. We also assist clients with legal separations. If you have questions about alimony, child support or child custody, our attorneys can help. Call us now at 615-893-9255 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

How much does a divorce cost?

There is no standard price for a divorce in Tennessee. While court fees will typically range from $100-$500, your legal costs can vary drastically depending on the amount of work involved. Contested divorces require more work than uncontested divorces. The more property that needs to be divided, the more time the process will take. When children are involved, costs may rise. Our attorneys make every effort to handle cases as efficiently as possible. We seek to reduce costs for our clients wherever we can, while providing professional and skilled service.

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How long does the divorce process take?

A divorce can take as little as two months but sometimes lasts years. There are mandatory waiting periods of at least 60 days, which are raised to 90 days when there are children involved. If the divorce is contested, a trial may be required, which can take months or years of preparation. Your attorney can help you understand how long you should expect the process to take in your particular case.

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What is the process for getting divorced?

In order to file for divorce in Tennessee, you must first meet the residency requirements. The next step is to fill out forms, including a Request for Divorce, a Health Insurance Notice and a Divorce Agreement. These forms must be notarized and filed with a clerk of court. After a mandatory waiting period, you will have a divorce hearing in front of a judge. Your divorce attorney will guide you through each of these steps and explain all of your options to you at each point in the process.

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How does a court determine child custody?

The state of Tennessee bases child custody decisions on what is best for the child. Parents are generally encouraged to work together to create a parenting plan. This plan is an agreement containing a series of compromises on a variety of parenting issues, including where children will live during the week and on weekends and where they will go on holidays. If parents cannot agree, the court will create a plan based on each parent’s stability, living environment and relationship with the child.

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How is child support determined?

Tennessee awards child support based on a standardized formula. The state expects both parents to contribute financially and bases payments off of the income each parent earns, as well as various expenses. These numbers are known as the adjusted gross income (AGI). The parents’ incomes are then applied to the state’s child support schedule to determine the amount that each parent is responsible for. The non-custodial parent usually has their share of the support deducted from their paychecks automatically. This is called an Income Withholding Order (IWO).

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How is alimony determined?

Tennessee has different types of alimony depending on the needs and resources of the parties involved. Some of the many factors that a court considers when deciding whether to award alimony and how much alimony to award include:

  • Each party’s financial situation
  • The earning capacity of each party
  • The duration of the marriage
  • Each party’s age and physical condition
  • Contributions made to the marriage

In some cases, other factors may also be relevant for a court’s decision. Our divorce attorneys work with clients to obtain optimal results when spousal support is at issue.

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What are the general differences in cost between contested and uncontested divorces?

Uncontested divorces can oftentimes be handled on a flat-fee basis with our law firm. Contested divorces are more unpredictable and therefore are usually handled on an hourly basis.

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What is an annulment?

An annulment is a legal determination that voids out a previous marriage. Annulments are rare but can be available in certain limited circumstances.

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Does adultery affect a divorce case?

Generally adultery has little affect on a divorce case. Courts will grant a divorce on the grounds of adultery but the division of assets and even the custodial arrangement between parents are oftentimes not effected by adultery. However, cases that involve an alimony award will factor adultery into the equation.

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Can the court make a decision on where a primary parent lives in a custody case?

It depends. Generally the court will allow a certain amount of freedom for the primary parent to choose where he/she will live within a certain area. However, if one parent or the other decides to move a significant distance, the court can and oftentimes does take this into consideration as to who should be the primary parent of a child/children.

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How long does an uncontested divorce generally take?

Generally an uncontested divorce will be finalized in 60 days if there are no minor children and 90 days if there are minor children.

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What is the general process for filing for divorce?

The first step is filing a divorce petition. Generally there will be responsive pleadings filed shortly thereafter. In the interim, some negotiation of final terms may take place and/or discovery will be issued to the parties. Most Tennessee courts will require the parties to attend mediation before a final hearing. Depositions of the parties take place sometime before trial (and sometimes before mediation). In the event no agreement is reached, a trial is set and heard by a Judge (no jury).

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Do parents have custody rights to their children when they are unmarried?

Mothers do. Fathers are required to go through a legal process to establish paternity and custody rights.

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What generally happens when either I or my estranged spouse refuses to sign divorce documents?

Generally this leads to a divorce being deemed “contested” and ultimately may require the court to make the final decision. It is certainly easiest if your spouse will agree to the terms of your divorce documents. However, every spouse has the right to put any contested issues before a judge.

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What generally happens at a default divorce hearing?

A default hearing is when the opposing party/spouse has failed to adhere to his/her obligations in the divorce process. Generally you would appear with your attorney at court and ask the court to grant you a divorce on your terms due to your spouse’s failures. This is generally a short hearing where you will need (usually two) witnesses to verify your allegations in the Complaint to have a default judgment granted.

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What is the difference between a fault-based divorce and a no-fault divorce?

No-fault divorces are generally a stipulation by both spouses that the divorce needs to happen. Fault-based divorces are where one spouse is awarded a divorce against the other spouse due to certain actions/inactions of the spouse.

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What are the general guidelines of alimony?

There is no hard-line formula to alimony. The two most significant factors are “need” and “ability to pay.

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Does a divorce decree have a statute of limitations?


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How are assets divided in a divorce with no prenuptial agreement?

Equitably. This does not necessarily mean “equal.”

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What do I need to start the divorce process?

Generally you will need to have certain personal information related to you/your spouse and any children born of the marriage.

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What is a legal separation?

A legal separation is not a divorce. A legal separation is a judicial order that requires the parties to follow certain guidelines as to assets/debts and children.

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