Tennessee Divorce FAQ’s

1. How long does it take to get a divorce in Tennessee?

The minimum amount of time that you will have to wait for a divorce based on irreconcilable differences is 60 days after you have officially filed if you have no unmarried minor children and 90 days after filing if you have unmarried, minor children.
There is no statutory minimum waiting period when the divorce is based on fault grounds. However, a contested divorce generally takes anywhere from 6 months to 2 years to complete because of motions, discovery, and trial. From a cost perspective it is generally less costly and more expedient to get a divorce for irreconcilable differences.

2. My divorce is uncontested can one attorney handle our case to save on costs?

Although it is technically not illegal to have one attorney handle the divorce for both sides there are ethical considerations that keep our firm from representing both parties in a divorce because it creates a conflict of interest.

If the divorce is uncontested though, and both you and your spouse have agreed on everything, and there is nothing else to work out, it may be possible for our firm to represent one party and do all of the legal work. In this case, we would only represent one spouse and, if the agreement broke down, we would continue to only represent that party. To read more about services for Uncontested Divorces Click Here.

3. How much will my divorce cost?

We let you know up front how much your total divorce cost is going to be. This is completely different than you will find at most other divorce lawyers where it’s impossible for them to give you a completely accurate estimate of how much a divorce will cost because they bill by the hour and you never know what your bill is going to be. Other lawyers will simply quote you a retainer fee and usually won’t even give you an estimate of what the total attorney fees will be.

To find out EXACTLY how much your divorce will cost if you use the Ferrell Law Firm for your Divorce just click on the links below. The first is our fee structure for contested divorces and the second is our fee for uncontested divorce.

Don’t know what type of divorce you applies to you? Then be sure to visit our Memphis Divorce Information page first.

Ferrell Law Firm “Guaranteed Reasonable” Contested Divorce Fees or   Ferrell Law Firm “Guaranteed Reasonable” Uncontested Divorce Fees

You’ll find that at other divorce law firms where they “bill by the hour” the hourly attorney fees for divorce lawyers usually range from $200 – $450 per hour. And most divorce attorneys bill by the hour on after requiring a retainer of at least $5,000 up front.

4. What is the process for getting divorced in Tennessee?

The basic process for filing for a divorce based on irreconcilable differences is as follows:

File for divorce with the court
Prepare and sign Marital Dissolution Agreement
Prepare a Permanent Parenting Plan if there are minor children
Hearing in court to determine if the agreement meets Tennessee Law
If the judge agrees, then a Final Divorce Decree is issued

The basic process for filing for a contested divorce is as follows:

File for divorce with the court
Give notice of filing to the other spouse
The other spouse files an Answer to the petition
Discovery: depositions, interrogatories, and fact finding
Trial
Final decree is issued that grants or denies divorce

5. How much child support will I receive?

The amount of child support given to the custodian parent is generally determined by the Department of Human Services Child Support Guidelines.

Tennessee child support guidelines are based on the Income Shares Model. Under this model both parents support the child at the same level as if they were living together. And both parents’ combined income is used to determine the support needs of the child under the Tennessee Schedule of Child Support Obligations. The parents’ shares of the obligation are determined in proportion to their income.

Here is an example: If a mother’s income is $2,500 per month and a father’s income is $7,500 per month, there is a combined income of $10,000 per month.
The mother’s share would be 25% and the father’s share would be 75% of the total obligation.

Once the Combined Adjusted Gross Income is determined, you go to the Tennessee Schedule of Basic Child Support Guidelines to determine the monthly combined child support obligation. (This is the total amount of child support for the children from both parents).

In our example a combined income of $10,000 for a couple with two children would result in a combined amount of roughly $2,400.
The mother’s share of the support would be 25% of this, equaling $600.00.
The father’s share of the support would be 75% of this, equaling $1,800.00.

The child support payment would be paid to the Primary Residential Parent by the Alternate Residential Parent. The Primary Residential Parent is generally the parent with whom the children live the majority of the time.

In the example, if the Primary Residential Parent is the mother, she would receive $1,800.00 each month from the father. She would not have to pay the $600.00 to anyone, it is simply her share of the total support and used to calculate the total obligation.

NOTE: This is only a guide to the basic concept behind the guidelines. There are many variables that can go into the child support calculations which aren’t detailed here. You should check with your attorney about your individual case and you should in no event rely on this information for calculating your individual obligation.

To see the actual DHS worksheets and calculators click here.

6. How is alimony determined in Tennessee?

Tennessee has a specific statute that sets the guidelines for spousal support. Either party of the divorce may seek spousal support. The court may award support when it finds that one party is economically disadvantaged relative to the other spouse. Although other types of alimony are available, the legislature has expressed a preference that alimony for an economically disadvantaged spouse should be rehabilitative. This type of alimony awards support for a set period of time in order to rehabilitate the spouse’s earning potential to a point where they are no longer disadvantaged relative to the other spouse.

Some factors that the court will consider in awarding alimony are:

  • The earning capacity and resources of each party
  • The education level and training of each party
  • The length of the marriage
  • Each party’s separate assets
  • The division of marital property
  • The ages of each party
  • Need for the primary residential parent to stay home
  • The standard of living of the couple during the marriage
  • The relative fault of each party in the divorce
  • Other contributions that each party has made to the marriage including tangible and intangible contributions
  • Other factors that are necessary to consider the equities between the parties

7. How does the court determine child custody in Tennessee?

The guiding factor for courts in custody determination is the best interest of the child. Tennessee law does not allow the court to consider the gender of the parent in awarding custody. In making an initial custody determination the court will consider all relevant factors including:

  • The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close relationship between the child and the other parent
  • The parent’s ability to instruct, inspire, and encourage the child
  • The strength, nature, and stability of the child’s relationship with each parent
  • Any refusal to attend a court ordered parent education seminar
  • The disposition of each parent to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, and education
  • Love, affection, and emotional ties existing between each parent and the child
  • The degree to which a parent has been the primary caregiver
  • The emotional needs and developmental level of the child
  • The character and physical and emotional fitness of each parent
  • The importance of continuity in the child’s life
  • Evidence of abuse of the child or the other parent
  • The preference of the child if older than 12 years of age
  • Other factors that are relevant to the court

8. Should I be represented by a lawyer?

A party to a divorce is allowed to represent themselves in Tennessee. However, lawyers have a saying that a person who represents himself has a fool for a client. This is true for both simple and complex divorce cases. Cases that start out simple can quickly become difficult. And issues of division of property, child co-parenting time, child support, and alimony are complicated and, without a strong legal background, one should not attempt to resolve those matters by yourself.

9. How do I find a qualified divorce lawyer?

One of the best and most time-tested methods of finding a divorce lawyer is to ask another lawyer for a referral. But what about when you don’t have a lawyer to ask for a referral from? You should try to find out as much as you can from potential lawyers by looking into information that they have written about divorce and seeing if they are familiar with your type of situation.

Factors that you should consider when hiring a lawyer is your confidence in that lawyer, his or her experience, their accessibility, responsiveness, compatibility, style, negotiation skills, reputation and, of course, fees.

10. Can one spouse move to a different state to get a divorce?

Yes. If the person meets that state’s requirements for residency then they may file for divorce in that state.

11. How long must I have lived in Tennessee before I can file for divorce in a Tennessee court?

The law in Tennessee regarding divorce requires that the acts that are complained of must have been committed while the plaintiff (person filing for divorce) was a resident of the state.

If the acts that are complained of were committed outside of Tennessee and the plaintiff resided outside of the state at the time of these acts, at least one of the spouses must have resided in Tennessee for six (6) months before the filing of the petition.

12. What is meant by “grounds for divorce?”

A “ground” for divorce is a “reason” for divorce. The State of Tennessee has several reasons for divorce that are recognized as legal reasons. In filing for a divorce you must use one or more of these reasons to justify your divorce.

Tennessee law permits both no-fault and fault grounds for divorces.

Irreconcilable differences may be cited as a no-fault grounds for divorce between the parties.

The fault-based grounds for divorce in Tennessee include:

  • impotency
  • bigamy
  • adultery
  • desertion
  • conviction of a felon
  • sentence of imprisonment
  • conviction of an infamous crime
  • pregnancy of the wife without the husband’s knowledge by one other than the husband
  • physical cruelty
  • addiction to drugs or alcohol
  • inappropriate marital conduct
  • abandonment.

Spousal Support/Alimony

14. What does the term “spousal support” (or, “alimony”) mean?

“Spousal Support” (sometimes called “alimony”) is money paid to one spouse by the other spouse to make up for the loss of of the spouse’s income due to divorce.

15. Is support/alimony available while the divorce is pending in court, or only once the divorce has become final?

Support/alimony can be awarded while the divorce is pending. But any support or alimony awarded before the final decree of divorce is only temporary and will not be extended beyond the period of time necessary for the prosecution of the divorce action.

16. What factors will be considered when the court determines how much alimony to award?

Alimony may be awarded by the court to either spouse. It may be periodic, lump sum, or rehabilitative. And some of the factors that the court considers in determining the amount and term of alimony include:

  • The value of any separate property and the value of each party’s marital property.
  • Whether the spouse who is seeking alimony is the custodian of the children and, given the circumstances, would it be difficult for him/her to seek employment outside of the home.
  • The need of the spouse who is seeking alimony to seek additional training or education and to find appropriate employment.
  • The standard of living that the spouse is accustomed to and that was established during the marriage.
  • The length of the marriage.
  • The needs and obligations of each spouse.
  • The comparative financial resources of each spouse
  • Any factor the court deems equitable and just.

17. How does the court decide the division of the marital property?

Tennessee divorce laws state that the division of property is to be equitable without regard to fault. This basically means that it should be fair, but not necessarily equal.

The following factors are considered by the court in dividing the parties’ property:

  • The length of the marriage.
  • The age, physical and mental health, vocational skills, potential for employment, earning capacity, estate, financial liabilities, financial needs of the spouses.
  • The tangible and intangible contributions of each spouse to the other spouse’s education, training, or increased earning power.
  • The relative ability of each party for future acquisition of capital assets and income.
  • The contributions of each party to the acquisition, preservation, appreciation, depreciation or dissipation of the marital or separate property.
  • The value of each party’s separate property.
  • Any other factors necessary to achieve an equitable distribution.

18. Can the ”separate property” of one spouse be divided up?

Usually, separate property that was acquired before the marriage or by gift or inheritance during the marriage may be excluded from the marital estate if neither the property nor the income has been used for the common benefit of the parties during their marriage.

19. What if the spouses occasionally use an item that was separate property (for example, china inherited by the wife) for the benefit of both parties?

The property may be subject to division. When spouses regularly use property that was acquired by one spouse before marriage for the common benefit of both, it is likely to be available for consideration in dividing property. But the court will look at the frequency of use in considering if the property is still separate.

In the example above it is likely that the property would be considered separate only if it was very seldom used by both parties. (I.E. Once every few years).