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Tennessee Divorce FAQ's






1. How long does it take to get a divorce in Tennessee?
2. My divorce is uncontested; can one attorney handle our case to save on costs?
3. How much will a divorce cost in Tennessee?
4. What is the process for getting divorced in Tennessee?
5. How is child support determined in Tennessee?
6. How is alimony determined in Tennessee?
7. How does the court determine child custody in Tennessee?

1. How long does it take to get a divorce in Tennessee?

The minimum statutory waiting period for a divorce based on irreconcilable differences is 60 days after filing if there are no unmarried minor children and 90 days after filing if the couple have unmarried, minor children.
There is no statutory minimum waiting period when fault grounds are plead. However, contested divorces generally take from 6 months to 2 years to complete because of motions, discovery, and trial. It is generally less costly and more expedient to get a divorce for irreconcilable differences.

2. My divorce is uncontested can one attorney handle our case to save on costs?

My firm will not represent both parties in a divorce because it creates a conflict of interest. If both you and your spouse have agreed on everything and there is nothing else to work out, it may be possible for me to represent one party and do all of the legal work. In this case, my firm would only represent one spouse and, if the agreement broke down, I would continue to only represent that party.

3. How much will a divorce cost in Tennessee?

There is no way to give an accurate estimate of how much a divorce will cost because each divorce is unique. There are two major expenses that will be part of your divorce: court costs and attorneys fees.

Court costs vary in each county and your should check with your local clerk for charges. Generally, the fees will be between $100-$500. The cost may or may not include service of process, publication, and court costs other than the filing fee.

Attorneys fees will vary based on the individual attorney and the complexity of the divorce. An uncontested divorce with nothing left to work out, no real property, and no minor children will cost anywhere from $150-$1500 depending on the attorney. In a contested divorce, it is more difficult to estimate fees because of the uncertainty of how much work will need to be done on the case. Most attorneys bill by the hour on contested matters and will usually require a retainer up front.

4. What is the process for getting divorced in Tennessee?

The basic procedure for a divorce based on irreconcilable differences:

  • File for divorce with the court
  • Prepare and sign Marital Dissolution Agreement
  • Prepare a Permanent Parenting Plan if there are minor children
  • Hearing in court to determine if the agreement meets Tennessee Law
  • If the judge agrees, then a Final Divorce Decree is issued

For a contested divorce:

  • File for divorce with the court
  • Give notice of filing to the other spouse
  • The other spouse files an Answer to the petition
  • Discovery: depositions, interrogatories, and fact finding
  • Trial
  • Final decree is issued that grants or denies divorce

5. How is child support determined in Tennessee?

The amount of child support is usually determined by the Department of Human Services Child Support Guidelines.
Parents may not contract away their child support obligation. Any deviation from the guidelines must have court approval.
Tennessee guidelines are based on the Income Shares Model. The purpose of this model is to have both parents support the child at the same level as if they were living together. Under this model both parents’ combined income is used to determine the support needs of the child under the Tennessee Schedule of Child Support Obligations. The parents’ shares of the obligation are determined in proportion to their income.

    For example: If a mother’s income is $2000 per month and a father’s income is $3000 per month, there is a combined income of $5000 per month.
    The mother’s share would be 40% and the father’s share would be 60% of the total obligation.

Once the Combined Adjusted Gross Income is determined, go to the Tennessee Schedule of Basic Child Support Guidelines to determine the monthly combined child support obligation. (This is the total amount of child support for the children from both parents).

    In our example a combined income of $5000 for a couple with two children would result in a combined amount of $1122.
    The mother’s share of the support would be 40% of this, equaling $448.80.
    The father’s share of the support would be 60% of this, equaling $673.20.

The child support payment would be paid to the Primary Residential Parent by the Alternate Residential Parent. The Primary Residential Parent is generally the parent whom the children live with the majority of the time.

    In the example, if the Primary Residential Parent is the mother, she would receive $673.20 each month from the father. She would not have to pay the $448.80 to anyone, it is simply her share of the total support and used to calculate the total obligation.

NOTE: This is only a guide to the basic concept behind the guidelines. Many variables can go into the child support calculations that are not detailed here. You should check with your attorney about your individual case and you should in no event rely on this information for calculating your individual obligation. To see the actual DHS worksheets and calculators click here.

6. How is alimony determined in Tennessee?

Tennessee has a specific statute that sets the guidelines for spousal support. Either party to the divorce may seek spousal support. The court may award support when it finds that one party is economically disadvantaged relative to the other spouse. Although other types of alimony are available, the legislature has expressed a preference that alimony for an economically disadvantaged spouse should be rehabilitative. This type of alimony awards support for a set period of time in order to rehabilitate the spouse’s earning potential to a point where they are no longer disadvantaged relative to the other spouse.

Some factors that the court will consider in awarding alimony are:

  • The earning capacity and resources of each party
  • The education level and training of each party
  • The length of the marriage
  • Each party’s separate assets
  • The division of marital property
  • The ages of each party
  • Need for the primary residential parent to stay home
  • The standard of living of the couple during the marriage
  • The relative fault of each party in the divorce
  • Other contributions that each party has made to the marriage including tangible and intangible contributions
  • Other factors that are necessary to consider the equities between the parties

7. How does the court determine child custody in Tennessee?

The guiding factor for courts in custody determination is the best interest of the child. Tennessee law does not allow the court to consider the gender of the parent in awarding custody. In making an initial custody determination the court will consider all relevant factors including:

  • The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close relationship between the child and the other parent
  • The parent’s ability to instruct, inspire, and encourage the child
  • The strength, nature, and stability of the child’s relationship with each parent
  • Any refusal to attend a court ordered parent education seminar
  • The disposition of each parent to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, and education
  • The love, affection, and emotional ties existing between each parent and the child
  • The degree to which a parent has been the primary caregiver
  • The emotional needs and developmental level of the child
  • The character and physical and emotional fitness of each parent
  • The importance of continuity in the child’s life
  • Evidence of abuse of the child or the other parent
  • The preference of the child if older than 12 years of age
  • Other factors that are relevant to the court

No attorney-client relationship exists with the Law Offices of Scott Justice unless there is a signed retainer agreement. The information contained on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be specific legal advice for your situation. The owner of this site makes no representations as to the current accuracy of the information on this site. The law is constantly changing through legislation and judicial rulings.