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Advocating For Your Rights During The Divorce Process In East Tennessee

Couples in Tennessee seeking to end their marriage have two basic options, and each one has to do with whether or not you and your spouse agree on the terms of the divorce. When you and your spouse can reach agreement on issues like child custody and support, property division, and alimony, you can often negotiate the terms in an uncontested divorce. However, some couples need to rely on the court in what’s called a contested divorce to ensure a fair settlement for both parties.

As experienced Maryville divorce attorneys, Shepherd & Long has more than three decades of experience guiding couples through the contested divorce process. Contact us today for a consultation.

What is contested divorce?

Tennessee Title 36 includes a list of 15 allowable grounds for divorce. When filing on grounds of irreconcilable differences, it means that both spouses agree on the divorce and aren’t accusing each other of wrongdoing or misconduct. This is a no-fault, uncontested divorce. You can also get a no-fault divorce if you and your spouse have no minor children and have been separated for two years.

However, other grounds – such as cruel and inhuman treatment or forcing a spouse to withdraw by offering indignities to his or her person – can create an imbalance of power, which makes it impossible to enter into meaningful negotiations. In cases like these, our Maryville attorneys may recommend that our client pursue a contested divorce.

In divorces involving children, or with complex finances, spouses may dispute issues like child custody, child support, alimony, and asset division. If you and your spouses are unable to come to agreement, you may have to go in front of a judge, who will make those decisions for you. However, with the help of an experienced divorce and mediation attorney like the ones at Shepherd & Long, you may be able to avoid a long and painful court battle.

Attorney Kevin Shepherd is a skilled and professionally trained mediator who has a track record of successful outcomes for his Blount County clients. Allow him to put his mediation experience to work assisting you with a fair settlement. Preventing your contested divorce from becoming contentious keeps your litigation expenses and your stress level lower.

What is the Tennessee contested divorce process?

You and your spouse may end your marriage through either settlement or trial. With either option, the process typically goes like this:

  • The spouse requesting the divorce files the documents, citing either “irreconcilable differences” or a fault ground.
  • If possible, the spouses negotiate and settle the terms of the divorce out of court. If they’re unable to do so, discovery begins. The discovery process entails both spouses producing documents and answering questions under oath.
  • Before setting a court date, a judge will likely order the spouses to attend mediation in a last attempt to reach an agreement.
  • If mediation is unsuccessful, the divorce case proceeds to trial.

What are grounds for divorce in Tennessee?

Grounds for divorce are the legally accepted reasons for granting a divorce. In addition to irreconcilable differences, you can request a divorce from your spouse for the following reasons:

  • Cruel and inhuman treatment
  • Adultery
  • Bigamy
  • Impotence and inability to procreate
  • Desertion for one year
  • Conviction of an infamous crime
  • Conviction of a felony
  • Attempt to kill a spouse
  • Refusal to move to Tennessee for two years
  • Wife was pregnant at time of marriage without spouse’s knowledge
  • Habitual drunkenness or abuse of narcotics
  • Indignities, meaning infliction of physical pain or attempt to inflict pain
  • Abandonment

If one spouse is found to be at fault for the divorce, marital wrongdoing can affect child custody, division of marital assets, and other issues in the divorce settlement. It’s important that a spouse does not make false allegations when filing for divorce, as this can greatly backfire during the legal process. Our experienced Maryville attorneys can work with you to ensure that your divorce proceeds fairly and equitably.

What if my spouse refuses to sign divorce papers?

With a contested divorce, only one spouse has to agree to end the marriage. However, if your spouse refuses to sign divorce papers after being served, you still have options. First, just because a person won’t acknowledge being served with papers doesn’t mean they weren’t served. You can file your divorce action with the court and wait for an assigned date, and if your spouse does not show up for that date, the court will grant you a divorce by default.

Before granting you a divorce, the court determines whether or not the papers were served properly and whether your spouse had ample time to respond (in Tennessee, that’s 30 days). If both are true, then you’ll get your divorce. The Maryville lawyers at Shepherd & Long can help you with this process to ensure it goes smoothly.

How long does a contested divorce take in Tennessee?

If you and your spouse have children under the age of 18, you must wait at least 90 days after you file for the court to grant your divorce. Without minor children, you must wait at least 60 days. However, with contested divorces, you and your spouse likely have a variety of issues in dispute, which can take some time to negotiate. Depending on your circumstances, a divorce can take from months to years to complete. Our job as your divorce attorneys is to make the divorce process as efficient and stress-free as possible for you and your children.

How does adultery affect divorce?

Adultery is a ground for divorce in Tennessee, and it can also affect the outcome of your divorce agreement. If you do allege adultery on the part of your spouse, you are required to prove it in court. This can be circumstantial evidence, like text messages, emails, or even a pregnancy. Typically, adultery comes into play when assigning alimony. Proving adultery can improve your chances of securing alimony, as your spousal support should not be reduced because your spouse committed marital misconduct.

Is adultery against the law in Tennessee?

Even though adultery is indeed a ground for divorce, adultery is not a crime here in Maryville. You cannot go to jail for adultery. The court calls it marital misconduct because the issue at hand is one spouse’s infidelity. Adultery may come into play in a contested divorce and can factor into alimony, but the court may not use adultery in a punitive manner – only to keep a divorce equitable and fair.

Why you need a skilled contested divorce attorney

Few people are aware of how much of their personal life can become public in a divorce. Financial records, cell phone records, even the hard disk drive of your computer are standard discovery requests in Tennessee divorces. Every e-mail you wrote during your marriage and every website you visited can turn up as evidence in a divorce case. If a divorce is in your future, you need a lawyer who can protect your privacy and your reputation.

As your attorneys, our goal is to protect your interests and avoid unnecessary conflict. However, if the other side takes an aggressive approach, you will need an attorney in your corner that is willing and able to protect your interests in court.

Contact An Experienced Maryville Contested Divorce Attorney

Before you make the decision to pursue a contested divorce, the lawyers at Shepherd & Long thoroughly assess your circumstances to determine if uncontested divorce might be an option. We help you make an informed decision by clearly presenting the advantages and disadvantages of each type of divorce based on your unique situation. And, if contested divorce is the best choice for you, we have the courtroom experience to advocate effectively for your rights. For more information, or to schedule a consultation, call us at 865-383-3118 or fill out our contact form. We regularly represent clients in Madisonville, Oak Ridge, Lenoir City and throughout East Tennessee.