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Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce in Nashville Tennessee

Tiffany Johns Law June 2, 2015

When a marriage comes to an end, emotions can often interfere with a spouse’s ability to seek out and understand all of the available options and solutions for resolving any conflict. Even when there is no conflict between separating spouses, it remains essential that each spouse make informed decisions concerning issues which still affect the entire family.

In Tennessee, spouses seeking to end their marriage must seek either an uncontested or a contested divorce. While it may appear that the distinction between these two options centers upon whether or not the spouses in question have agreed to end their marriage, this usually is not the case; rather, in a contested divorce, the two spouses are unable to agree on the terms of the divorce settlement.

Under Tennessee law, couples are entitled to file for an uncontested divorce when at least one spouse has resided in Tennessee for at least six months, and both spouses agree to end the marriage. In addition, uncontested divorces can be granted when both spouses cite irreconcilable difference as the grounds for the divorce, and no further explanation or show of proof is required by the court.

Couples without minor children may be granted a divorce sixty days after initial filing and service; couples with minor children borne of the marriage must wait ninety days. Couples with children must also agree on what Tennessee calls a Permanent Parenting Plan, which must address the following issues:

  • The parent to be designated as the primary residential parent;

  • The visitation schedule, detailing the days, times, and locations of scheduled visitation;

  • The amount of child support to be either paid or collected

All Tennessee couples seeking an uncontested divorce must create a written marital dissolution agreement, which sets forth how the couple intends to divide both their marital assets and marital debts. Unlike child support payments, the amount of which is subject to strict guidelines under Tennessee law, divorcing couples are free to divide their assets and debts between themselves in any manner that they wish.

Uncontested divorce has many advantages over contested divorce—not only is the process faster and less expensive, the allowed simple claim of irreconcilable differences also allows both spouses to maintain their privacy. This differs from contested divorces, which, in Tennessee, require proof of at least one ground, or basis, for the divorce. Recognized grounds for divorce in Tennessee include:

  • Adultery

  • Abandonment—when one spouse forces the other spouse out of the home and refuses support

  • Inappropriate marital conduct, including cruel and inhuman treatment such as verbal and/or physical abuse

  • Habitual alcohol or drug abuse

  • Bigamy

  • Imprisonment for a felony

As mentioned, in a contested divorce, a spouse alleging any of this conduct must then offer evidence proving it at a hearing before a judge. The other spouse is then entitled to offer evidence countering this claim. Because of this, both spouses are typically allowed six months to gather and prepare evidence for this hearing; this, of course, also increases the court costs and attorney’s fees.

Couples contesting a divorce are also often unable to agree upon a settlement of various issues, including:

  • Property issues, including division of property, valuation of property, and determination of whether property is owned jointly or separately.

  • Alimony payments

  • Parenting issues, such as custody, visitation, and child support

Couples seeking divorce who are unable to agree on certain issues, yet who still wish to avoid the time and expense of a contested divorce and a hearing before a judge may also choose to reach an agreement through the use of a third-party mediator—in fact, many divorcing Tennessee couples are required to attend mediation at some point during the process. Through mediation, both spouses can avoid the stress and anxiety of court proceedings, reaching a solution of their own choosing, rather than leaving the decision up to a judge.

At Middle Tennessee Family Law in downtown Nashville, our knowledgeable Nashville divorce attorney is dedicated to helping clients make informed decisions regarding their divorce, and guiding them to the equitable settlement that they deserve. If you are seeking a divorce, and are unsure of whether to file for a contested or uncontested divorce, we are ready to help. For a free initial consultation, contact us online today, or call us. Evening and weekend appointments are available.