Divorce in Tennessee: Everything You Need to Know

1 min readLast updated April 30, 2024by Unbiased team

This article will take you through the processes and costs associated with divorce in Tennessee.

Summary

  • Tennessee offers different types of divorce to suit a variety of needs, including uncontested divorce and contested divorce. 

  • The average cost of divorce in Tennessee is $12,600 per side.

  • Tennessee uses equitable distribution for asset division in divorce, aiming for fairness rather than an equal split.

  • A financial advisor can help you protect your finances through a divorce and develop a long-term plan to rebuild afterward. 

What are the different types of divorce in Tennessee?

In Tennessee, you can opt for a contested or uncontested divorce if you wish to end your marriage: 

  • Uncontested divorce: Tennessee courts also refer to this as an “agreed divorce.” It is ideal for spouses who agree on major issues like asset division and custody and is often the quickest and most cost-effective option.

  • Contested divorce: This applies when spouses disagree on key matters, necessitating court involvement. It's more complex and expensive due to the legal proceedings involved.

The state also allows for other methods for ending your marriage: 

  • Divorce mediation: Mediation is an out-of-court resolution process. Here, both spouses sit down with a licensed, third-party mediator to resolve their differences. It is often a cheaper solution. 

  • Collaborative divorce: Here, both parties must agree in good faith to resolve their issues without litigation. While each spouse must have a representative, this process takes place outside of court and does not involve a judge. 

  • Divorce litigation: Here, couples go to court, and a judge makes final and binding decisions regarding the separation of the marriage. 

  • Legal separation: This is not a divorce but a way for couples to live apart and resolve financial and custody issues without ending the marriage. It is often chosen for religious or financial reasons.

How much does a divorce cost in Tennessee?

According to a survey conducted by Martindale-Nolo, the average cost of divorce in Tennessee is $12,600 per side. This jumps higher to $18,900 if you have children who are minors. 

The cost of a divorce in Tennessee depends on various factors; here are just some of the costs you should consider: 

  • Filing fees: Divorce filing fees vary by county but are generally between $150 and $400, marking the starting cost of the divorce process.

  • Attorney fees: For those requiring legal assistance, average attorney fees in Tennessee are between $9,700 and $11,700. In cases without contested issues, these costs can be significantly lower, reflecting the simpler nature of the proceedings.

  • Mediation costs: Divorces that go through mediation to settle disputes might incur additional costs ranging from $1,000 to $5,000, based on the mediation duration and mediator fees.

  • Miscellaneous expenses: Other potential expenses include court costs, the cost of obtaining financial documents, and fees for mandatory parenting classes for divorces involving children.

Although these figures provide a general guide, the true cost of a divorce can vary greatly based on the specifics of each case. 

Uncontested divorces, or those where the parties can agree on terms without significant legal intervention, tend to be less costly.

How do you file for divorce in Tennessee?

Filing for divorce in Tennessee involves a series of steps designed to ensure that both parties are treated fairly and that all legal requirements are met. 

Here’s an overview of how you can file for divorce in the state of Tennessee:

  1. Determine the grounds for divorce: Decide whether you are filing for a fault-based or no-fault divorce based on irreconcilable differences or separation.

  2. Prepare the necessary documents: Complete the divorce petition and other required documents. These will vary based on your county.

  3. File the petition: Submit your paperwork to the county court where you or your spouse reside. The filing fee, which ranges between $150 and $400, must be paid at this time.

  4. Serve your spouse: Legally notify your spouse of the divorce action. This can be done through a process server, sheriff, or sometimes by certified mail, depending on the county’s rules.

  5. Respond to the petition: The served spouse must respond within a set period, usually 30 days, indicating whether they contest the divorce terms.

  6. Negotiate terms or go to trial: If the divorce is contested, parties might need mediation or a trial to resolve issues. In uncontested cases, agreements on terms like property division, alimony, and custody can expedite the process.

  7. Finalize the divorce: Once all terms are agreed upon, the court reviews the final settlement. If everything is in order, the judge will issue the final divorce decree.

It’s important to note that each divorce case is unique, and navigating the legal system can be complex. 

How do you split assets in a divorce in Tennessee?

Tennessee uses equitable distribution for asset division in divorce, aiming for fairness rather than an equal split. 

Courts consider numerous factors to ensure the division of marital property is just, including:

  • Duration of the marriage: Longer marriages may see a different division approach compared to shorter ones.

  • Health and ages: The physical and mental health of both spouses can influence the division, especially if one party has greater financial needs.

  • Earning capacities: The court considers each spouse's current income, skills, and potential for future earnings and asset acquisition.

  • Financial needs and liabilities: Each spouse's immediate and future financial needs and debts are taken into account.

  • Contributions to marital assets: This includes not only financial contributions but also non-financial ones, such as homemaking, that contributed to asset accumulation.

How does alimony work in Tennessee?

Alimony in Tennessee is financial support one spouse may be required to pay the other post-divorce. 

Alimony is never guaranteed. When deciding if to award alimony, and if so, how much they will pay, the court will consider several factors:

  • Ability to pay: The court assesses the supporting spouse's financial capacity by examining their earning ability, considering their education, job skills, employment history, assets, and income sources.

  • Recipient’s needs: The financial necessities of the spouse seeking alimony, including their standard of living during the marriage and potential for self-support, are scrutinized.

  • Marriage duration: The length of the marriage often influences both the likelihood and terms of alimony, with longer marriages more frequently resulting in awards.

  • Contributions and fault: Contributions to the marriage, both financial and non-financial, and any fault in the divorce can affect alimony decisions.

What happens to children during a divorce in Tennessee?

In Tennessee, the child's best interests are paramount in divorce proceedings. 

If the divorcing couple cannot agree, the court will decide on what happens to their children. Some key areas the court will make a ruling on some of the following areas:

  • Living arrangements: The court decides on the primary residential parent and the living setup that best suits the child's stability and needs.

  • Custody and visitation: Custody may be joint or sole. This will be based on the parent's ability to provide stability, the child’s relationships with parents, and any abuse history.

  • Child Support: The court will calculate this based on income, number of children, and custody. The aim is to preserve the child's standard of living.

Decisions regarding children strive to balance physical needs with emotional well-being and ensure a supportive environment post-divorce.

Get expert financial advice

A financial advisor can help you assess your current financial status, create a post-divorce budget, and develop a long-term financial plan that aligns with your needs and goals.

Unbiased can connect you with a financial advisor perfectly suited to meet your needs. Simply provide some details about what you’re looking for, and Unbiased’s platform will match you with your advisor.

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Unbiased team

Our team of writers, who have decades of experience writing about personal finance, including investing and retirement, are here to help you find out what you must know about life’s biggest financial decisions.