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You've Decided to Divorce – What Next?


In our last post, we discussed a few points a couple might consider before filing for divorce. This week, we will take the next step and look into the important distinction between contested and uncontested divorce procedures. Although leading to the same conclusion, the paths taken by each are quite different. Letʼs explore what sets these two processes apart.

In Tennessee, the grounds for divorce are statutory and set out in TCA §36-4-101. There are fifteen (15) scenarios listed that a plaintiff can use to seek a divorce, several of which are quite archaic. One of the most commonly cited is: “irreconcilable differences between the parties” (TCA § 36-4-101(a)(14)). You may have heard this ground shortened to “irreconcilable differences”, “I.D. divorce” or “agreed divorce”. All of these terms can be used to describe an uncontested divorce.

Uncontested divorce.

In Tennessee, a divorce can be uncontested if the couple agrees to each point in the process, meaning they will not require the assistance of the court to decide matters such as alimony, distribution of property, visitation schedules / parenting plans, child support, etc. In this scenario, itʼs common that both parties wish to end the marriage, and they are able to communicate and cooperate to accomplish this goal.

Even if the parties do not initially agree with each and every feature of the divorce agreement, an uncontested divorce is often still possible through mediation. The presence and practice of an experienced mediator is invaluable and can, in many instances, assist in guiding the parties from discord to compromise. Uncontested divorce proceedings frequently involve shorter time frames between filing and final decree (75+ days in some cases). This approach also tends to foster a more streamlined and cooperative atmosphere, which can be helpful to all parties and to the ultimate goal of equitable separation.

Contested divorce.

It is often the case that a divorcing couple cannot agree on matters crucial to the dissolution of the marriage. In this situation, a contested divorce is needed, meaning the parties require the direct involvement of the court to decide questions of alimony, child support, distribution of property and visitation, just to name a few.

A contested divorce relies heavily on the structure and procedures of the court and looks more like a traditional lawsuit in how the details are handled – with each side presenting their points with the assistance of counsel, and the judge making the final decisions. While it is possible to achieve an uncontested divorce with minor children, these cases are significantly more complicated and often emotionally charged, thus they are often contested.

Each type of divorce procedure, contested and uncontested, has its own benefits and complications. When a couple decides to end their marriage, itʼs important that they know the options and decide for themselves which approach is best for their unique situation. If you have any questions or are in need of a divorce, please contact the Law Office of Santel | Garner and we will be glad to discuss your options.