Contrary to what Hollywood would have you believe, not all divorces play out like a courtroom drama. In fact, not only are there many different types of divorce, but fighting isn’t even a necessary element.
When a divorcing couple agrees on all the terms of their dissolution, the court calls this an “uncontested” divorce.
Here’s how these amicable splits work in Tennessee, and how the Byrd Law team can help determine if this path is right for you.
What is an Uncontested Divorce?
In the world of divorce law, there are two kinds of breakups: the couples who agree about their divorce terms, and the ones who don’t.
Since most couples can’t even agree while married (let alone when dividing up assets), most of the cases we see fall into the second category. These divorces are called contested, and they occur whenever there is disagreement between the parties about how to settle the terms.
If, on the other hand, both sides agree on all points of their divorce, the split is uncontested (often referred to as an “agreed divorce” in Tennessee). Here, there would be no need for a traditional court trial, since there would be nothing for a judge to decide. Everything is already settled.
While this might sound like a pretty good scenario, uncontested divorce isn’t for everyone, and should only really be utilized in certain situations.
Who Qualifies for an Uncontested Divorce?
Because it’s undeniably the most cost-effective way to get divorced, an uncontested split can seem pretty attractive. After all, who wouldn’t want to save a little money on their divorce?
The problem is—like most things in life—you get what you pay for in an uncontested scenario, and this simple dissolution process is often incredibly insufficient for the average marriage. This is because marriage is more than just a relationship status. It’s a contract between two people, and divorce is the legal process of breaking that contract. In other words: not simple at all.
That’s why uncontested divorce is really only available to couples who:
- Meet Tennessee’s residency requirements;
- Do not have children together (whether adopted or biological);
- Are not pregnant;
- Both want to end the marriage;
- Do not share ownership in a business or property;
- Do not have retirement benefits to split; and,
- Who agree about all other matters, such as alimony, and separate property.
Generally speaking, the longer a couple has been married, the more time they’ve had to accumulate assets, property, debt and children (or, in other words, “things that complicate a divorce”). Hence, a good rule of thumb is: the shorter your marriage, the more likely an uncontested divorce will work for you.
Uncontested Divorce and Minor Children
While Tennessee courts do allow couples with children to file for an uncontested divorce, the process is more involved, and carries a higher probability of error.
Couples with children who want to pursue an uncontested divorce, anyway, will need to meet these requirements:
- Your children must be under eighteen, in high school, or disabled;
- You must not be pregnant;
- You both agree about the terms of your parenting plan;
- You both agree about all the other terms of your divorce; and,
- At least one of you has lived in Tennessee for six months.
A parenting plan lays out the rights and responsibilities of both parents, including custody, visitation, and child support. These areas can be difficult to navigate on your own, making it easy for a parent to unknowingly give up essential rights.
Hence, if you have any uncertainty, whatsoever about the terms of your parenting plan, it’s best to play it safe and avoid an uncontested divorce, altogether.
Do I Need an Attorney for an Uncontested Divorce?
The short answer is: no.
Technically, you don’t really have to have an attorney for any aspect of divorce, since self-representation is always an option. That being said, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good idea.
The thing is, people can’t know what they don’t know, and while you might think you agree with your spouse on everything, without knowing exactly what your rights are, you can’t always know for sure.
Mistakes can be expensive—sometimes impossible—to reverse. This is why, even in an uncontested divorce, attorneys are so important. Even if all they do is review your contract before signing, this critical failsafe will ensure you don’t inadvertently agree to something that goes against your best interest.
How to Get an Uncontested Divorce
The process of initiating an uncontested divorce is pretty much the same as filing for any other type. To do so, follow these steps:
- Make sure you that you qualify for an uncontested divorce;
- Download and complete the necessary forms;
- File your complaint with the county clerk;
- Endure the waiting period; and finally,
- Attend your hearing.
Here’s a closer look at each of these steps.
1. Meet the Qualifications
Uncontested divorce qualifications can be reviewed above, under “Who Qualifies for a, Uncontested Divorce?” Remember, in order to file for any kind of divorce in Tennessee, at least half of your duo needs to have lived in the state for six months or more.
2. Complete Your Forms
All court-approved divorce forms can be accessed and downloaded on the Tennessee state website. These packets also include useful information about attorneys, mediation, and resources for those struggling with domestic violence.
3. File Your Forms
Once your paperwork is complete, your forms must be signed, notarized, and filed with your county clerk.
One of the biggest differences between an uncontested and contested divorce, is that uncontested divorce parties will often include their settlement agreement (and parenting plan, if applicable) at the same time they file their divorce complaint. Filing all documents at the same time is beneficial, in that it:
- Waives service requirements;
- Waves the defendant’s responsibility to file an answer; and,
- Eliminates the need for multiple visits to the courthouse.
At this time, you will also need to pay the filing feeD. This amount varies by county, but should be between $200-$400.
4. Mandatory Waiting Period
The absolute fastest you can get an uncontested divorce in Tennessee, is sixty days. For those filing with children, the limit is increased to ninety days.
This mandatory time frame acts as a cooling off period, and is designed to give couples a chance to reconcile—which actually does happen, more often than you might think.
5. Attend Your Hearing
The final step is to attend your hearing, which is usually scheduled when you file your paperwork with the clerk.
At the hearing, your judge will review your documents and ask questions. If there are any inconsistencies or errors with your paperwork, this is where couples who have forgone representation usually find out.
To avoid the hassle of having to redo some of these steps (thereby prolonging your divorce process), it’s best to talk to an attorney right from the start.
Uncontested Divorce Attorney in Tennessee
For more questions about uncontested divorce in Tennessee, we want to hear from you. Call the Byrd Law team at NUMBER, or contact us online, and together, we can help you avoid the common pitfalls of the uncontested divorce process.