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Tennessee Uncontested Divorce

This information is an overview of the uncontested Tennessee divorce filing process and a summary of the divorce papers that are typically filed with the family law or domestic relations clerk. This overview is not intended to be an exact step-by-step guide for those "do it yourself divorce" filers, due to the fact that many cases are unique and the overview presented here is often not the only method of obtaining an uncontested divorce in Tennessee.

To file for a divorce in Tennessee, the filing spouse must have been a resident when the grounds for the action happened. If the grounds happened outside the state and the petitioner resides outside the state, either spouse must have been a resident for six months before the filing. A divorce may be filed in 1) the county where both spouses lived at the time they separated, 2) the county in which the Respondent lives if he or she is a resident of Tennessee or 3) the county in which the Petitioner lives if the Respondent is not a resident of Tennessee.

Grounds for divorce are No-Fault, which means 1) irreconcilable differences if a) there is no denial of this by the other party; b) the spouses submit a properly signed Marital Dissolution Agreement, or c) irreconcilable differences are combined with a general fault-based ground or 2) living separate and apart without cohabitation for two years when there are no minor children in the marriage.



Fault grounds are 1) impotence, 2) adultery, 3) conviction of a felony and imprisonment, 4) alcoholism and/or drug addiction, 5) wife pregnant by another at the time of marriage without the husband’s knowledge, 6) willful desertion for a year, 7) bigamy, 8) endangering the life of a spouse, 9) conviction of an infamous crime, 10) refusing to relocate to the state with a spouse and willfully absenting himself or herself from a new residence for two years, 11) cruel and inhuman treatment and improper marital conduct, 12) indignities that make the spouse’s life intolerable, and 13) abandonment, neglect and banning the spouse from the home.

Actions are filed in the Circuit or Chancery Court of the county.

The filing spouse is called the Petitioner; the responding spouse is called the Respondent. In contested actions, the parties may be called the Plaintiff and Defendant.

Legal separations are permitted on the same grounds as divorce. If a legal separation has been in effect for two years, either spouse may request that the separation be converted to an absolute divorce.

Tennessee permits a simplified divorce based on irreconcilable differences. The spouses sign a notarized Marital Settlement Agreement. The agreement must 1) refer to the action by the name of the court and the docket number or 2) state that the Respondent is aware that the divorce will be filed in Tennessee, and 3) state that the Respondent waives service of process and waives filing an answer. This Waiver of Service is valid for 180 days after it is signed, and it constitutes a general appearance by the Respondent. If there are no minor children in the marriage, a hearing may be held 60 days after the petition for divorce has been filed. If there are minor children, 90 days must elapse. In this routine, the spouses must make "adequate and sufficient provision for the care and custody of any minor children and for the adequate settlement of their property." They may also provide for alimony. A Final Decree may be entered without any corroborating proof from either party. However, if the Respondent contests or denies there are irreconcilable differences, a divorce may not be granted on these grounds unless there is a valid Marital Settlement Agreement. In some counties, the Respondent must sign the Appearance and Waiver in the presence of the court clerk.

To file for a divorce if the Respondent will sign a Marital Dissolution Agreement, Form 400, the Petitioner must file all or some of the following forms:

> A Case Cover Sheet, Form 10, which provides information required by the Tennessee court;

> A Complaint for Divorce, Form 100, which identifies the parties, the nature of the action, and relief sought;

> An Amendment, Form 115, which is filed if the Complaint must be amended;

> Divorce Certificate, Form PH1682, which is available from the Department of Health or the court clerk’s office and is used for record keeping purposes;

> An Affidavit of Indigency, Form 30, which is used when the Petitioner cannot afford the filing fees;

> A Permanent Parenting Plan, Form 145, which is used if there is dependent child(ren) in the marriage;

> Parenting Class Certificate, which shows that both parents attended the mandatory parenting classes;

> Wage Assignment Order, Form 340, which is required if the Parenting Plan provides for third-party collection and distribution of child support payments, as it often does;

> Final Decree, Form 411, which ends the marriage when it is signed by a judge;

> Title IV-D, Form 415, which is required if a parent is receiving assistance from the state of Tennessee.

To file for a divorce if the Respondent will not sign a Marital Dissolution Agreement but the Petitioner does not expect the Respondent to contest the action, the Petitioner must file all or some of the above forms, plus the following:

`> Summons, Form 40, which gives the Respondent 30 days to file Answer after having received it and the Complaint, if the papers are served by a deputy sheriff; or

> An Affidavit of Service, Form 50, which, when completed, certifies that the Summons and Complaint have been delivered to the Respondent, if the papers are served by someone other than the deputy sheriff;

> A Statutory Injunction against Both Parties, Form 300, which enjoins the parties from removing children from the state, harassing each other and dissipating marital assets;

> Motion for Default Judgment, Form 240, which asks the court to order a default judgment against the Respondent after the 30-day period specified in the Summons has elapsed;

> An Order Granting Default Judgment, Form 360, which orders the default judgment after the motion has been filed.

If the Respondent fails to file an Answer in 30 days, the Petitioner may file for a default against him or her. In some counties, this a two-step process, first filing the Motion at one hearing and second the Order at another hearing, at which the Final Decree (Default), Form 410, is also presented. A spouse seeking a Default Order is nevertheless obligated to inform his or her spouse of the divorce even if he or she has not entered an appearance.

When the Respondent agrees to sign a Marital Dissolution Agreement, no Summons or Affidavit of Service is required. The Petitioner may not serve the Respondent. If necessary, the serving of process -- the Summons and Complaint -- may be done in a number of ways, including the following:

> By deputy sheriff in the Petitioner’s county or any Tennessee County, which is the preferred method;

> By private process in Tennessee or outside the state, using a friend orrelative or any other adult;

> By Secretary of State, when the Respondent lives outside the state, which entails additional costs;

> By certified mail, in Tennessee or outside the state;

> By Publication in a newspaper, which is used when the Respondent cannot or will not be located. This requires a good faith effort on the part of the Petitioner to locate the missing Respondent, after which the court grants him or her permission to publish "the notice at least once a week in each of four successive weeks in one or more newspapers of general circulation published in the county in which the action is pending."

A contested divorce becomes much more complicated and expensive. To start, the Plaintiff, as the Petitioner is known, must file all of the forms he or she would file in an uncontested action. The Defendant, as the Respondent is known, must also file all of these forms as well as an Answer, Form 110, in which he or she challenges or disputes allegations made by the Plaintiff in his or her complaint. In a contested action, the parties may file a Temporary Parenting Plan, Form 140, instead of a Permanent Parenting Plan.

Pending negotiates by the parties, when either the Plaintiff or the Defendant want preliminary rulings by the court until a final decree is entered, may use some or all of these forms:

> Motion for Injunctive Relief, Form 200, when protection of a spouse or child is required;

> Motion for Temporary Relief, Form 210, which is used for temporary support;

> Statement in Support of Motion, Form 230, which is filed in support or other motions;

> Financial Declarations, Form 280, used in support of allegation of financial need;

> Injunction, Form 310, used by a party when he or she seek to prohibit or compel an action by the other spouse;

> Temporary Order of Relief, Form 320, used when temporary relief is required.

If the parties cannot reach an agreement, these forms may be required:

> Subpoena, Form 260, for each witness;

> Witness and Exhibit Lists, Form 270, which are furnished to the opposing party;

> Motion, Form 220, which is general purpose, for a request not described here;

> Order, Form 330, which is general purpose, for a request not described here;

> Motion to Set Case for Hearing, Form 225, which sets a trial date;

> Order Setting Case for Hearing, Form 335, which is used so a trial can be held.

To complete the contested divorce, either party must file:

> A Permanent Parenting Plan, Form 145, when minor children are involved;

> Parenting Class Certificate, which shows that both parents attended the mandatory parenting classes;

> Wage Assignment Order, Form 340, which is required if the Parenting Plan provided for third-party collection and distribution of child support payments, as it often does;

> Final Decree of Divorce (Contested Case), Form 412, which ends the marriage when it is signed by a judge;

> Title IV-D, Form 415, which is required if a parent is receiving assistance from the state of Tennessee.