The TN Divorce Process: Serving Divorce Papers

Divorce is a difficult process, and it can be especially challenging to figure out the legal requirements for serving divorce papers in Tennessee. This guide will provide an overview of the legal requirements for serving divorce papers in Tennessee, the timeline for doing so, where to file the paperwork, what to include and potential challenges one might face during the process.  

In this blog, we will explain the different options that individuals have for serving papers to their spouses, such as hiring a professional process server or having a friend or family member deliver the paperwork. We will also discuss any relevant laws on the respective matter and what one should do if served with divorce papers in Tennessee. 

Filing for Divorce in Tennessee  

In Tennessee, couples can file for a contested or uncontested divorce, and the process for filing for divorce can vary based on how you plan to file.  

If you file uncontested, you and your partner must agree on all the terms of your divorce, and you can file the divorce forms together. However, if you plan to file contested, the process can be a bit more complicated, as you will need to complete the paperwork yourself, serve the other party, and negotiate or litigate to reach a final settlement.  

The steps involved in filing a contested divorce include:  

  1. Complete the divorce complaint. When filing for divorce in Tennessee there are several documents that must be included: summons (which includes information about both parties involved), complaint (which outlines grounds for divorce), financial affidavit (which outlines both parties’ assets/debts) and parenting plan (if applicable). 

  1. File the forms. Divorce paperwork must be filed with your local county court clerk's office. You will need to fill out all necessary forms and submit them along with payment of applicable fees before your case can proceed. It is important that all paperwork is filled out correctly as any mistakes could delay your case further. Additionally, make sure that all required documents are included when filing as failure to do so could also result in delays or even dismissal of your case altogether.   

  1. Serve your spouse. You must serve your spouse with the divorce complaint so that they can file a response. We will discuss this step in further detail later.  

  1. Complete the settlement or discovery process. During this stage, you and your spouse (with the help of a mediator and/or your respective attorneys) may try to negotiate and reach a settlement agreement. During or before the negotiations, the discovery process can take place; this process involves collecting and exchanging case information. Either party may request documents, information, or evidence.  

  1. Attend parenting class. If you are getting divorced and have minor children, Tennessee requires that you take a parenting seminar before finalizing your divorce.   

  2. Complete trial and reach a final judgment. You can continue settlement efforts or allow your case to go to court where a judge will make final determinations.  

How to Serve Divorce Papers in Tennessee 

Divorce papers must be served directly to the receiving party. The filing party can ask the sheriff’s office or a process server to serve the papers. Under Tennessee Code § 36-4-103(2), the recipient can waive the service by signing a notarized form that acknowledges a divorce is pending. 

It is important to note that any person at least 18 years of age and not a party to the action may serve divorce papers. A new way of serving process is by mail; a lawyer can mail another lawyer or an individual a lawsuit, and the individual receiving the lawsuit can sign a Waiver of Service form acknowledging receipt of service. 

Timeline for Serving Divorce Papers 

The timeline for serving divorce papers depends on how quickly you need them served and which option you choose. If you hire a professional process server, they typically take 1-2 days to serve your spouse; however, if you choose to have someone else deliver them (e.g., friend or family member), it could take anywhere from 1-3 weeks depending on how quickly they are able to locate your spouse and deliver them successfully. 

Potential Challenges When Serving Divorce Papers 

One potential challenge when serving divorce papers is locating your spouse if you do not know where they are currently living or working at the time of service. In this situation, you may need to hire a private investigator who specializes in locating missing persons.  

However this can become costly depending on how long it takes them to find your spouse successfully. If you choose to use mail service as an option, then there is always a risk that your spouse may not receive or sign off on their Waiver of Service form which could lead to further delays in proceedings down the line if they decide not contest service later on. 

What To Do If Served with Divorce Papers in Tennessee 

If you are served with divorce papers then it is important that you read through them carefully before responding or taking any action whatsoever; you should also contact an attorney who specializes in family law right away so they can help advise you on what steps should be taken next based off their experience handling similar cases like yours previously etc.  

Consequences of Failing to Respond to Divorce Complaint  

You have 30 days to file a response to the divorce complaint after being legally served. If you fail to respond, your spouse can petition the court for a default judgement.  

A default judgment in the context of divorce cases in Tennessee is a ruling made by the court when one party fails to appear for the hearing. This means that the court will make a decision based on the evidence presented by the other party, without considering any input from the absent party.  

In most cases, this results in a ruling that is favorable to the party who did show up. It is important for people divorcing in Tennessee to be aware that even if a default judgment has been granted against them, they still have options available for appealing it or having it vacated. They should speak with an experienced attorney who can help them understand their rights and guide them through this process. 

Need help filing or responding to a divorce complaint? Call (423) 299-4489 to discuss your case with our attorneys. We handle contested and uncontested divorce cases.    

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