You’re thinking about filing for divorce, weighing the pros and cons. One big issue on the con side: How long is this divorce going to be hanging over my head? In Tennessee, the good news is that as long as you can work out your issues with your soon-to-be ex-spouse, the whole process can be over in just a few months. The bad news, however, is that if you cannot reach agreement outside of court, you’re likely in for a long, complicated slog.
The best case scenario is an uncontested divorce. This means that you and your spouse have come to terms with the dissolution of your marriage and have agreed on all of the issues involved, which can include everything from child custody and support to alimony and property division. Even under these optimal circumstances, Tennessee has a waiting period after a divorce filing: 60 days for a couple with no minor children and 90 days for couples with minor children.
A contested divorce is where things can get complicated. If you and your spouse can’t agree on anything, or have even a few issues in which a satisfactory resolution cannot be reached, the adversarial process is about to begin. For starters, after your spouse has been served with divorce papers, she then has 30 days to respond. And then you have to respond to her response. This back and forth is just the beginning of what is likely to be a lengthy process.
In Tennessee, if a a divorce case is going to involve one or more contested issues, the court is likely to require the parties attend mediation. This gives them an opportunity to resolve their outstanding differences before a court battle is needed, in some cases a final opportunity. Mediation involves a neutral third party who attempts to help the spouses reach a satisfactory agreement on the issues in dispute. This process can be time consuming, especially if the issue of contention is child custody.
Discovery and Trial
As the divorce plays out and the parties' attorneys go back and forth in an attempt to reach a settlement, a process known as discovery begins. This is the time when the parties will seek exacting details from each other, usually focused on the financial assets of each spouse. Thus, discovery typically involves full financial disclosure. If the parties are unable to reach an out-of-court settlement, a trial will be necessary. But first, in Tennessee, a final trial management conference is conducted. This is another opportunity for the parties to reach an agreement before a trial is held. It is also intended to ensure that the trial, if necessary, will go smoothly. If negotiations fail at this point, a trial will occur. And by this point, six months – or even two years – has typically passed since the original divorce filing.