What Is the Cost of Divorce in Tennessee?

We’ve all heard the horror stories about the destructive power of divorce. Not only does it leave a wide emotional wake, but the financial aftermath often takes some people years to recover from. Luckily, with some careful planning and a little foresight, this doesn’t have to be you.

Here’s some more information about the cost of divorce in Tennessee, and what you can do to keep your bottom line as low as possible.


What Is the Cost of Divorce in Tennessee?

Short answer? It depends. Long answer? Buckle in, it’s going to get bumpy…

Listen, we know it’s really annoying when a salesman won’t give you a straight answer on the cost of something. You want real numbers, and you want them now, because without them, you genuinely can’t make an informed decision. (We get it, we’ve been there too!)

The thing is, when it comes to divorce, we aren’t being skittish salesmen when we say we don’t know how much it will cost—because we really don’t. Just like each relationship is different, so, too, are the costs of divorce for each one, and ultimately, your total cost will come down to a bunch of individual factors that we can’t possibly predict without hearing your life story in person. 

That being said, here are a few hard facts we can give you.   


1. The Filing Fee

To get your divorce on record, the absolute bare minimum you’ll need to pay will be between $200 and $400. This is what it costs to file a complaint for divorce, which is the first step you’ll need to take to start your divorce. And in very rare circumstances, it could maybepossibly be the only step you’ll need to take. (But probably not). So don’t get too excited. 

The filing fee for a divorce complaint varies, depending on what county you live in. For the exact cost in your jurisdiction, it’s best to speak to your family law attorney, or simply browse your county government website. 


2. Attorney’s Fees

In the family law arena, almost all attorneys work at an hourly rate. This means you pay them based on how many hours they spend working your case—both in and out of court. 

Similar to filing fees, this rate fluctuates depending on where you live. For example, because of the high cost of living, a city attorney will have higher rates than a rural one. Experience and skill will be another crucial factor.

That being said, a recent, statewide poll revealed that the maximum average hourly rate in Tennessee was $280, with the minimum average at $230. And while it’s impossible to predict exactly how long any one divorce might take, in Tennessee, it’s common for individuals to spend around $10,000 on their attorney (though, it can easily be much more). 

Keep in mind that most attorneys will require you to put at least some of this money down upfront, in the form of a retainer’s fee. This amount differs between firms, but typically runs between $2,000-$5,000.

In addition to paying your attorney’s hourly rate, retainer money is used to pay for other costs associated with resolving your case. You will receive itemized reports on how it is spent, and will periodically need to replenish the funds (since your initial down payment probably won’t last the duration of your case). If there’s anything left over at the end, these funds will be returned to you. 


3. Other Costs

Depending on the needs of your case, you may also have to include the cost of other outside professionals into your calculations. Some of these could include child psychologists, financial advisors, and property appraisers. 

In Tennessee, divorcing parents are required to take a co-parenting seminar as a part of their parenting plan. These classes provide them with the information and tools they need to help their children transition during divorce, and—once again—the cost will depend on your jurisdiction. Some counties operate on a sliding scale to accommodate for different incomes, while others are willing to waive fees under certain circumstances.


How to Save Money in Divorce

By now, you’ve probably noticed that attorney’s fees are the single biggest dent to a bank account during divorce, and you might be wondering if you can get away with not hiring one, altogether, in order to save money.  

While self-representation and uncontested divorce are always options, they aren’t great choices for the average couple. Family law is complicated and nuanced. On your own, it’s incredibly easy to give up essential rights that can be expensive—even impossible—to reverse. 

Instead of forgoing representation, we suggest considering some of the ways that you can help keep your own costs down. Here are some ideas: 


1. Avoid a Trial

There are lots of different types of divorce, and not all require a courtroom, gavel, and judge. To save time and money, consider an alternative method of dispute resolution, such as mediation or collaborative divorce. 

Even if you aren’t able to solve everything out of court, try to settle as many issues as you can. Each one you tick off the list is one less thing your judge has to decide, meaning your attorney won’t have to charge you for the effort of litigating it. 


2. Have the Right Attitude

Couples who fight over every single fork in the kitchen are the ones who end up paying the most for their divorce. One of the easiest ways to cut down the cost of yours, is to have a good attitude, and be willing to compromise. 

Before you begin negotiations, make a list of assets and catalogue them by importance. Know what’s most important to you, and be emotionally willing to part with those that aren’t. This will help your negotiations run much more smoothly and resolve faster.  


3. Communicate Your Concerns With Your Attorney

At the onset of your case, be sure to communicate any and all concerns with your attorney, including worries about cost. Knowing this can help your attorney make decisions about how hard to push on some things, and where it’s okay to cut back. 


4. Do Some of the Workload Yourself

If your attorney has to organize a box of your messy financial records, make every phone call, and track down each phone number, address, and name, their hourly rate will add up quickly!

Whenever possible, help your attorney out by taking on the workload yourself. In addition, remember that your attorney isn’t your therapist. Keep your conversations relevant, on course, and whenever possible, email, don’t call. 


5. Draft a Prenup

For those who aren’t married yet, one of the best ways to control the level of controversy and cost of your divorce, is to draft a prenuptial agreement. Prenuptial agreements operate like insurance plans, and can dictate things like property, debt, and alimony, upon divorce. Couples who are already married can address similar topics, through a postnuptial agreement. 

If either of these is something you’re interested in, be sure to contact your family law attorney about how to make your contract valid and enforceable.  


Divorce Attorney in Tennessee

If you have more questions about the cost of divorce in Tennessee, we want to hear from you. Call the Byrd Law team at 423-304-6827, or contact us online, and together, we can help you achieve the results you want in the most cost savvy way possible.

Author Bio

Sam Byrd is the owner and managing attorney at The Law Office of Sam Byrd. With hands-on experience in divorce, family law, criminal law, and DUI/DWI cases, Sam has been serving clients in Tennessee since 2012. He graduated with a J.D. from the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law in 2012 and holds a B.S. in Legal Studies from the University of Tennessee – Chattanooga, where he graduated summa cum laude in 2009.

He began his legal career as a paralegal, working under his father’s guidance. Prior to that, Sam served in the United States Marine Corps as a member of the 2/7 Weapons Company stationed at 29 Palms, California.

Sam has received several accolades for his work, including being recognized as a Rising Star in Divorce & Family Law by Tennessee SuperLawyers in 2020, 2019, and 2018. He is also a member of The National Trial Lawyers’ Top 40 under 40, an exclusive professional organization for top trial lawyers under the age of 40. Sam’s commitment to continuous learning and improvement is demonstrated by his certifications in Trial Skills from the National College of DUI Defense in 2019 and 2018.

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