So, you’ve completed the divorce complaint and now you’re ready to to take the next step and file it with the court. Where do you start?
#1 The very first thing you need to do is go to the Shelby County Divorce Referee’s office.
Here in Memphis the divorce referee “proctors” all divorces. Part of the proctoring that the referee handles is the preliminary review of all new divorce complaints. And before you will be allowed to officially file your divorce complaint the referee must first review it and then sign an acknowledgement that he has received a copy of the complaint. (You don’t have to actually leave a copy with the referee.)
So you should first go to the divorce referee’s office located on the third floor of the Shelby County Courthouse in room 327. You can either drop the complaint off with the referee in person, with his clerk, or place it in the desk organizer labeled “Complaints for Review”.
Friendly note: If you want to personally hand the referee your complaint for his immediate review avoid coming after 1:00 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays when the referee will likely be on the bench conducting pendente lite hearings. And try not to come on Monday – Thursday mornings between 9:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. when the referee is usually in other courtrooms proctoring final hearings.
Upon the referee reviewing and signing your divorce complaint he will then assign your case to either the Chancery Court or Circuit Court. This is done completely randomly by pulling slips of paper from a box. (Since there are 9 Circuit Court divisions and only 3 Chancery divisions, you have a 75% chance that your case will be assigned to Circuit Court.)
What’s the divorce referee looking for when he reviews the complaint?
By law, every complaint must specifically list certain statistical information, data, and requests. For example, every complaint must provide information regarding whether jurisdiction is proper, who the parties are, what the grounds for divorce are, and list what you are requesting the court do. The divorce referee will look at the complaint to see if everything that is required by law to be listed is there. And he will also see if the complaint is in a format that is accepted by the court.
If anything that should be (or shouldn’t be) included in the complaint is not included or if it isn’t in proper form the referee will reject the complaint and not sign off. You will then need to go back and fix the divorce complaint to make sure it is properly completed before coming back and having the referee review the complaint again.(It’s important to note here that, by law, the divorce referee is not allowed to give you legal advice concerning your case. So don’t go to the referee thinking he will tell you exactly what you need to do to file your divorce correctly.)
#2 After the referee has assigned your case to either Chancery Court or Circuit Court you should go to that court clerk’s filing counter.
You will take the original divorce complaint that has been signed by both you and the divorce referee to the filing counter, along with at least two other copies (attorneys should have at least three other copies).(The filing counter for the Circuit Court Clerk is located on the second floor of the courthouse in room 224. And the filing counter for the Chancery Court Clerk is located on the third floor on the western side of the building.)
Tell the clerk that you want to file a complaint for divorce and then give them the original complaint. You will also need to bring the following:
- Completed Tennessee Department of Health Certificate of Divorce Annulment Form a completed (To be completed in black ink only and if you don’t have a copy of this form the clerk will provide one for you.)
- Completed Confidential Information Form
- An empty envelope
- A check or cash for the filing fee (The cost is $376.50 if you and your spouse have minor children together, or $301.50 if you do not.)
- Other things you will need if the divorce is to be contested:
- Two copies of the completed summons.
- An additional check to pay for the complaint to be served.
Be sure to bring copies of the complaint and hand these to the clerk to have stamped as filed. The clerk will keep a copy of the original for their own records, and if you are having your spouse served a copy will be included with his summons, you should additionally keep a stamped copy for your records (attorneys need to bring one more copy for their own records).
That’s the process of filing a divorce complaint here in Memphis. If you wish to tackle this on your own you are now armed with the basic knowledge of what you should do. But BEWARE, if you are attempting to handle your own case there are many mistakes that you could make that could be potentially devastating to you in the long term. I highly advise you seek out the best Memphis divorce lawyer you can find to help you with your case.
Jami Ferrell is an attorney who practices Divorce and Injury law in Memphis, Tennessee. He can be reached at 901-754-1340 or by email at James@Memphisdivorcefirm.com