Under Tennessee law, a contested divorce is any divorce where both parties cannot reach an agreement on every aspect of the dissolution of their marriage. Whether you have tried to negotiate outside of court, including through the mediation process, or are opting for litigation right away, a contested divorce involves a judge in a greater capacity than in amicable divorces.
A contested divorce can happen if both parties cannot agree on one or more of the following matters:
- Spousal support
- Property and asset division
- Child physical and legal custody
- Visitation schedule
- Child support
Although this option can take more time than an uncontested divorce and require a greater investment, a contested divorce can help you reach a court order that protects your and your family’s future more effectively.
When Should I Consider a Contested Divorce?
Although an uncontested divorce can save you time and money and set solid foundations for collaborative co-parenting if you share minor children with your spouse, a contested divorce can be a more effective solution in various situations.
If your spouse has unreasonable expectations and is not willing to negotiate, involving a judge in a greater capacity with a contested divorce can increase your chances of securing a positive outcome.
For marriages that have a history of domestic abuse, a contested divorce can minimize stress and the risk of intimidation and interference as your contact with your abusive spouse is minimized.
Other cases in which a contested divorce can prove more appropriate to address someone’s needs and goals are if you suspect that your spouse is hiding assets. Involving a judge can prompt the other party to tell the truth more readily. Given the significant impact that each spouse’s asset can have on the division of marital property and various financial support, making sure that both parties are truthful about their assets is central to fair divorce proceedings.
What Are Acceptable Grounds for a Contested Divorce?
If you and your spouse choose to file for a contested divorce, you need to base it on an acceptable ground.
In Tennessee, reasonable grounds for a contested divorce are:
- Conviction of a felony or an infamous crime
- Inappropriate marital conduct including cruelty
- Substance addiction
If you are unsure which ground fits your situation, you should consult a reputable divorce lawyer. They can assess your situation and determine which ground you should mention in your divorce petition.
What Are the Steps of a Contested Divorce in Tennessee?
If possible, you should consult with a divorce lawyer before filing for divorce to make sure you prepare and file your petition accurately. In Tennessee, you must submit a “Complaint for Absolute Divorce” and a “Summons” that the other party must respond to within 30 days after you serve it to them.
The service of process requires the spouse that files for divorce, also known as the plaintiff, to use a private process server or the Sheriff’s Office to provide the petition to the other party, the defendant.
Within 30 days of receiving the divorce petition, the defendant must submit their response which includes whether they agree or deny the various elements of the complaint. They may also file a “Counter Complaint,” which requires a “Counter Answer.”
The next stage is the discovery process in which each party can request specific information from the other spouse that is relevant to property division and when seeking alimony or child support.
The discovery process can include:
- Physical or mental evaluations
- Requests for admission
- Requests for production of documents and other evidence
You then need to attend pre-trial court hearings and during this period, a spouse can request temporary alimony or child support.
Both parties can negotiate settlement proposals through their lawyers. If you cannot reach an agreement on the proposals, you need to prepare and complete a full trial.
A contested divorce in Tennessee typically takes at least a year. If either spouse wants to contest the judge’s final ruling, they may appeal the decision.
Why Hire Conner & Roberts, PLLC as Your Divorce Attorney
Although the law does not require you to hire a lawyer during your divorce proceeding, a reputable and compassionate attorney can make a significant difference in protecting your rights and assets. At Conner & Roberts, PLLC, we understand how each of our clients’ situations is unique, and we provide customized recommendations throughout the legal process. Our team also helps make sure that the agreement your reach is fair to you and your family. We can help you outside of the courtroom to prepare and review documents and our team can also accompany you at your hearings.
Are you considering filing for a contested divorce in Chattanooga or its surrounding areas, contact Conner & Roberts, PLLC, today at (423) 299-4489 to schedule a consultation.