In a perfect world, couples seeking a divorce would be in good standing with each other, so that the courts wouldn’t have to settle complex matters like division of property and alimony. If both parties can draw up an agreement together, their divorce will undeniably resolve in a more timely manner. Yet many couples–for many reasons–don’t find themselves in a position to work things out with each other, and you must pursue a contested divorce.
A contested divorce occurs when a discussion between a couple and their divorce lawyers has broken down, and they can’t reach a mutual agreement over at least one aspect of the divorce. When a contested divorce goes to trial in Tennessee, both parties subject themselves to a judge’s ruling if they still can’t agree to terms by the conclusion of the trial. The process of a contested divorce can be considerably longer (and considerably more expensive) than an amicable divorce. Still, it is often used as a last resort when one party refuses to cooperate or is unwilling to accept the terms put forth by the other spouse.
The contested divorce process can feel overwhelming and time consuming, but an experienced divorce lawyer can help you navigate the proceedings and advocate for you on your behalf. If you find yourself in a position where divorce proceedings have come to a halt, you are not alone. Today, we will cover how contested divorce works in the State of Tennessee and fill you in on some important details you need to know.
Requirements to File
A contested divorce in Tennessee requires that the person filing a complaint prove grounds for divorce. There are multiple scenarios in which the state will recognize grounds for divorce. These include, but are not limited to:
- Abandonment or desertion
- Marital misconduct
- Substance abuse and addiction
- Physical abuse
- Felony conviction or conviction for a high-profile crime
- Sterility or impotence
It also requires that both spouses agree upon at least one aspect of the divorce. Commonly, this comes down to the division of property in a divorce, but it doesn’t have to be asset-related. The terms of child custody, for example, can be a factor that doesn’t involve the division of money or property.
Once you have proof of grounds for divorce and your complaint, you and your attorney file this divorce paperwork with the court. Once it’s accepted, your spouse will receive a divorce petition from the court and will have 30 days to respond. If they don’t, the trial goes forward without them. If they do respond, the process proceeds to the negotiation phase.
Negotiation and Discovery
Negotiation is a second chance for your and your family law attorney to work out the terms of your divorce with your spouse. However, what makes this phase different from previous negotiations is discovery. In a contested divorce, discovery is a method used by both sides to get relevant information from each other about assets.
Sometimes, the potential for discovery is enough to get an uncooperative spouse to comply with negotiations. At this step, depositions are also an option. During deposition, a spouse will be asked questions by the opposing counsel and have their answers entered into the court record.
At this point, if you complete negotiations, the divorce will be granted on those grounds. If hurdles still exist, however, the divorce will go to trial, greatly extending the process.
Contested Divorce Trial
At trial, a judge will decide the ultimate terms of the divorce. However, this isn’t an immediate decision. Both sides are allowed to enter new evidence, call upon witnesses, and question each other to support their case for how the judge should settle the matter.
Because each party appeals directly to the judge when presenting their arguments, their evidence, witnesses, and questions need to be relevant to divorce. Regardless of what problems you have with your spouse, presenting them in a negative light irrelevant to the divorce itself won’t impact the outcome and will only waste the time of you and the court.
Overall, if your divorce sees trial, the process can take at least a year, but this varies depending on the divided assets and other terms. For example, a judge can determine alimony payments with little difficulty, but the division of certain retirement accounts requires an additional legal process that can add months to resolution.
However, when the trial does reach its end, the judge’s ruling is final. Their decision will cover all aspects of the divorce, and the judge will enforce them immediately.
Trust Hunter Fowler with Your Divorce
When you need a family law attorney to assist you with your contested divorce, you can rely on Hunter Fowler’s expertise to guide you through the complex process with compassion and understanding. Whether you and your spouse are still negotiating the divorce outside of court or have taken it to trial, Attorney Hunter Fowler will stand for your rights, pursue whatever outcome that most benefits you, and prepare you for life following the outcome.
Hunter Fowler Law serves the Murfreesboro area and provides criminal defense and family law services, including child support and custody, paternity suits, and modified parenting plans. If you’re seeking an attorney that treats each client and case as genuinely unique, reach out to us now and see how we can help you.