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How Long Does a Divorce Take in Tennessee?

Cynthia J. Bohn Attorney at Law May 7, 2024

Couple with divorce contract and ring on deskFew journeys rival the emotional roller coaster of divorce, and for residents of Tennessee, each twist and turn is regulated by a rigorous set of laws and procedures.  

My name is Cynthia J. Bohn, a seasoned family law and divorce attorney in Tennessee. If you're considering divorce, have filed, or are living through it, the time frame matters.

At my firm, Cynthia J. Bohn Attorney at Law, located in Nashville, Tennessee, I'm here to shed light on what you can expect. 

Understanding Divorce Timelines

Divorce law isn't one-size-fits-all, and understanding Tennessee's unique legal framework will help define your approach and expectations for the process. There are key distinctions within the Volunteer State's divorce proceedings that set it apart from other jurisdictions.  

When uncontested, the average divorce in Tennessee takes between two and six months. When minor children are involved, however, most divorces take about a year. The timeline can drag out even longer if spouses disagree on important matters, like child custody, or if things get adversarial and each minor issue becomes a fight.  

Fault vs. No-Fault Divorce 

Tennessee law allows for both fault-based and no-fault divorces, and there is no requirement for legal separation before filing. This freedom comes with its caveats, as the type of divorce you choose can significantly affect the length and complexity of your proceedings.    

  • Fault Divorce: If you opt for a fault-based divorce, you'll need to prove that your spouse is responsible for the end of your marriage. Grounds for divorce can include adultery, abandonment, or cruelty (including emotional or physical abuse), among others. This type of divorce can lead to more extended legal battles to substantiate your claims. 

  • No-Fault Divorce: The most common ground for divorce in Tennessee is 'irreconcilable differences,' which is a no-fault ground. It implies that neither party is to blame for the marriage's demise but that the partnership is broken beyond repair.  

Required Waiting Period

In Tennessee, the path to a finalized divorce isn't a straight line, as there is a mandatory waiting period. 

The waiting period for a divorce to be finalized after filing legal action in Tennessee is typically 60 days for an agreed divorce with no minor children. The purpose of this period is to be a time for reflection, where the court allows you to either confirm your commitment to divorce or to consider steps for mending your marriage. 

In divorces involving minor children, Tennessee law extends the mandatory waiting period to 90 days after the initial filing. The extension aims to provide extra time for considering co-parenting arrangements and the best interests of the children.

The court may or may not expedite a final decree, depending on whether there is any abuse or threat of danger to the children, and how long the case has been pending. Furthermore, disputes over child custody, child support, or visitation rights can lengthen the process, as these require thorough review and legal decisions to ensure the welfare of the minors involved. 

Residency Requirement

Before you can untangle your marriage in the Tennessee courts, you or your spouse must have been a state resident for at least six months. If you're just over this hurdle, legal filings may proceed, but this foundational requirement must be met before you take that first step. 

Impact of Spousal Agreement

The level of agreement with your spouse can significantly influence the timeline of your divorce process. 

  • Contested Divorce: This occurs when spouses are unable to agree on one or more key issues such as child custody, visitation, spousal support, or the equitable division of marital property. In contentious divorces, each side presents their case, and the court ultimately decides on the disputed matters. 

  • Uncontested Divorce: In contrast, an uncontested divorce means that both parties have agreed on all divorce-related matters. This amicable separation usually speeds up the process, leading to a potentially shorter waiting period for the final divorce decree. 

Potential Pitfalls and Detours

Beyond the waiting period and the level of agreement, certain factors can act as either accelerants or roadblocks in your divorce case. 

  • Court Congestion: The availability of courts and judges can significantly impact the timeline. Tennessee, like other states, faces court congestion issues. Packed schedules mean longer waits for trial dates and final resolutions, particularly for contested cases. 

  • Complexity of Circumstances: The complexity of your case can elongate or shorten proceedings. High net-worth divorces, military divorces, and those involving complex child support calculations or the valuation of a unique family business, for instance, often require specialized attention and, consequently, more time. 

Finalizing Divorce

At this point in the timeline, you're likely eager to wrap up the divorce proceedings and move forward with your life. 

  • Finalizing the Divorce: Once the waiting period has ended, and all matters have been agreed upon or decided by the court, a final decree of divorce can be entered. 

  • Modifications and Appeals: Even after the termination of a divorce, there can be post-decree modifications, or, in the case of dissatisfaction with the proceedings, appeals to higher courts. 

Finding the Right Divorce Attorney

Throughout the divorce process, the help of an experienced divorce attorney can make all the difference. 

I am committed to providing you with the best possible legal guidance and support. My two decades of experience have taught me how to tailor my strategies to suit the unique needs and goals of each client.  

Frequently Asked Questions  

Can the Tennessee divorce timeline be expedited in certain cases?

While the statutory waiting periods serve as a general framework for divorce timelines in Tennessee, certain circumstances may allow for an expedited process. Cases with uncontested terms and no minor children can sometimes be resolved more swiftly, especially if both parties have already reached amicable agreements on the division of assets, alimony, and other relevant factors.

However, it is important to consult with your attorney to understand if your specific situation qualifies for any adjustments to the usual timeline. 

Are there any steps I can take to avoid delays in my divorce proceedings? 

To minimize delays in your divorce proceedings, make sure all the required documents are accurately completed and promptly filed. I also advise you to strive for agreement with your spouse on as many issues as possible. Engaging in mediation or collaborative law processes can help resolve disputes more efficiently than a trial.

Finally, working closely with a knowledgeable family law attorney can help you navigate the legal system effectively and avoid common pitfalls that could delay your divorce. 

How Early Should I Contact a Divorce Attorney?

It is prudent to consult with a divorce attorney as early as possible once you consider separation or divorce. Early consultation provides several advantages, including gaining a clear understanding of your legal rights and what to expect throughout the divorce process.

An attorney can also offer strategic advice on how to prepare for divorce, which might include gathering essential documents or taking steps to protect your financial interests. Early engagement with legal counsel can help you avoid common pitfalls that could complicate your case later on.

Remember, acquiring knowledge and preparing in advance can significantly influence the outcome and smoothness of your divorce proceedings. 

Reach Out for a Fearless, Compassionate Ally

If you're grappling with the distress of a looming divorce in Tennessee, I encourage you to reach out for legal guidance. You do not have to travel this road alone.   

Contact me to schedule your free initial consultation. By choosing the right legal partner, you set yourself up for a more navigable and less turbulent divorce experience. If you are a resident of Davidson, Sumner, Wilson, or Rutherford County, call Cynthia J. Bohn Attorney at Law for fearless and compassionate representation when you need it most.