When a marriage has begun to break down, divorce may be the best (or only) option moving forward. Divorce can be complex and the steps involved will depend largely on factors such as how long a couple has been married, if children are involved, and the value of marital property. Where couples can reach agreements on their own, the process can be comparatively simple. However, one or more disputes that arise can quickly complicate proceedings. While no two situations are ever the same, several basic stages will exist in nearly every case.
The steps of a divorce can include:
- File the petition: Filing papers (the divorce petition) begins the legal process and it will also typically contain the reasons for divorce. In Tennessee, couples can file for divorce on either a fault or no-fault basis. A no-fault divorce can include irreconcilable differences or a period of separation. If one party is found to be at fault, such as in cases of adultery, the resulting terms of the divorce can be greatly affected and the at-fault party may receive less in a resulting settlement.
- Response: The spouse who was served divorce papers will then be given the chance to respond. Even in cases where couples are in agreement, one party generally files for divorce and their spouse is the respondent. If the divorce is filed based on fault, the respondent can dispute the case and present a defense to the accusation. This will also set the foundation for disputes regarding issues such as property division or child custody.
- Negotiations: Disagreements are a common part of a divorce and when disputes exist, couples are given the opportunity to enter into negotiations. Out of court processes such as mediation and arbitration can allow many couples to solve their differences and draft an order of dissolution to submit to the court. However, when agreements cannot be reached, divorcing spouses may need to go to court to finalize a divorce.
- Trial: Before a divorce can be finalized, all issues must be resolved and in some cases, litigation can become necessary. A trial can be costly and add months if not years to the total length of a divorce. Both spouses will present their case in front of a judge who will then decide on the remaining unresolved terms. Going to trial can be traumatic, especially when children are involved, and it is typically the last option recommended for divorcing spouses.
- Dissolution of marriage: The order of dissolution officially and legally ends a marriage. The order will contain all agreements and stipulate the terms of issues such as alimony, child support, visitation, and the division of assets. Disputes must be resolved and be legally compliant in order for a judge to approve the divorce. Even when parties draft their own terms, an order must still be submitted to the court for approval.
Even after a divorce is finalized, former spouses can be affected for years to come. On one hand, divorce terms including alimony, child support, and visitation can require that ex-partners share some form of basic contact or arrangements. Furthermore, as life changes, the original terms set in a divorce may no longer be in anyone’s best interest and a modification may be in order. For example, if a parent is relocated for their job, child custody and support agreements may be revisited and adjusted to better fit the new situation.
Do You Need Legal Help with Your Divorce? Call (931) 361-4477
While the steps to a divorce may seem straightforward, each stage can present a range of complications and potential setbacks. This can be true whether divorcing spouses seek out-of-court solutions such as mediation or take disputes before a judge. If your marriage is ending, Patton & Pittman Attorneys at Law can help you to understand your legal options as well as what you may expect over the coming months. Our compassionate Clarksville divorce attorneys understand what you are going through and can be in your corner every step of the way.
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