What Happens When I Contest a Divorce in Tennessee?

By Beverly Bird

You might want to contest your divorce for any number of reasons. You might object to your spouse’s grounds -- Tennessee recognizes 12 different fault grounds, some of them quite creative -- or you might disagree with what your spouse is asking the court to grant her in the divorce. Either way, your divorce will take longer and involve more steps and requirements.

Answering Your Spouse’s Complaint

After your spouse serves you with a copy of her divorce complaint, you have 30 days in which to answer and contest it in Tennessee. You would generally do this by filing an answer and counterclaim with the court, but consult with an attorney first to make sure this document best suits your interests. In the answer segment, you can deny or claim ignorance of each of the facts claimed in the complaint, including your spouse’s grounds. The counterclaim segment acts as your own complaint for divorce. In this part, you can allege your own grounds and ask for your own relief, such as how you would like a judge to divide your property and resolve issues of custody and support. In some Tennessee counties, you must also pay a $500 cash bond at the time you file your answer and counterclaim, guaranteeing you’ll pay the court costs involved with contesting the divorce.

Pendente Lite Orders

Depending on how contentious your divorce is, you can ask the court for pendente lite relief – an order pending your final divorce decree -- after you file your answer and counterclaim. For example, your spouse may be refusing to allow you to see your children. You can ask the court to address issues of custody and visitation until your divorce is final. Pendente lite relief involves filing a motion with the court. In Tennessee, court referees usually hear these motions, not judges. Court referees are impartial court-appointed attorneys.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Discovery Procedures

When you contest your divorce, the court gives you about six months to prepare for trial. Trial requires that you provide the court with all the facts and details regarding any issues you're contesting. If you're contesting your spouse's grounds, you'll need proof that you didn't commit the act or acts she's accusing you of. If you think your spouse should not receive alimony, you'll have to show why she does not require your financial assistance post-divorce. You can use the six months to collect this information through discovery procedures. Discovery methods include sending your spouse a list of written questions that you’re demanding answers to under oath, called interrogatories. You can demand financial documentation from your spouse by issuing her a request for production of documents. You can also depose your spouse or anyone else who has pertinent information regarding your marriage, asking questions under oath in the presence of a court reporter. You're usually responsible for paying the court reporter.

Parent Education and Mediation

Some Tennessee judges will not schedule your contested divorce for trial unless you and your spouse attend mediation first to try to settle the contested issues on your own. If you have children, you’re also required to attend a parent education class, even if custody is not the aspect of your divorce that you’re contesting.


When you’re satisfied that you’ve learned all you can through your discovery efforts, and after you’ve attended mediation and the parenting class, you can ask the court to schedule a trial date. At trial, you and your spouse can each present witnesses and show the court the documentation you’ve gathered through discovery. The judge will decide contested issues for you and make a ruling.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
What Do I Need to Do to Contest a No-Fault Divorce in Pennsylvania?


Related articles

How to Get a Divorce When One Spouse Won't Agree

No one can stop you from getting a divorce if you want one, with the possible exception of the court. If you don’t follow proper legal procedure, a judge can deny your divorce, forcing you to start over. Your spouse can't stop you, but she can complicate the process.

Oregon Admininstrative Rules for Divorce & Assets

Oregon offers a few options for divorce, which is called a "dissolution of marriage" in this state. Oregon is a pure no-fault state; you do not have the option to use fault grounds for divorce. Spouses who own no real estate and less than $30,000 in personal property qualify for a simpler divorce known as a "summary dissolution." If you own more than that, you can either file a co-petition for dissolution with your spouse, or you can file a regular petition for dissolution to begin the divorce process.

Answering a Citation of Divorce

Being served with a divorce citation, or summons, often results in hurt and anger. However, you need to keep a cool head and decide if and how to answer the petition. This answer is a specific document filed with the court, in which you respond to the statements made in the petition. The amount of time you have to respond varies from state to state, but it is usually no more than 30 days.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Ways to Respond to Divorce Summons in North Carolina

No matter where you live, when your spouse serves you with a divorce summons, it's possible to do nothing at all. ...

Contested Divorces in Georgia

Even if you and your spouse agree that your marriage is over, the courts still consider your divorce contested if you ...

Adultery & Divorce in Georgia

If your spouse engages in an extramarital affair and you want to sue her for divorce because of it, you might be more ...

What Happens if I Ignore Divorce Summons Papers in New York?

The ostrich-like tactic of burying your head in the sand never works in a divorce situation. Depending on the extent of ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED