Divorce Waiting Period in Tennessee
Tennessee’s divorce waiting period requires a minimum length of time from filing for divorce until the divorce can be granted: 60 days, but 90 days if the spouses have children. Some call this a cooling off period.
When thoughts of Tennessee divorce transition from possibility to imperative, many a spouse might choose to bypass the divorce waiting period if only that were feasible. Take a deep breath, there is no 24-hour speedy divorce service. In Memphis, Tennessee, and elsewhere, dissolving a marriage takes time.
Naturally, clients want to know approximately how long their case is likely to be tied up in court. People want certainty in their lives. They need to know when they can move on with life as single adults again. Many plan to remarry after the divorce is final.
In Tennessee, two different waiting periods apply to divorce. The first waiting period is calculated from the date of filing the Complaint for Divorce. The second waiting period is calculated from the date the final divorce decree is entered. The time it takes for the proceedings in between is far less predictable.
A Tennessee divorce lawyer can offer a time estimate based upon his years of experience with prior cases. Such prognostications are general in nature, though. For instance, a bitterly contested divorce could last from a year-and-a-half to two-and-a-half years, sometimes longer. But at the outset of the case, there is no certainty in how long the divorce will take. The facts and circumstances raised in one divorce may have similarities to another, but each case is as unique as the parties to them.
There is a mandatory waiting period, however, that sets the bar for the soonest a divorce may be granted in Tennessee.
Save Time and Money in Tennessee Divorce
No matter how many issues need resolving, you can save time and money in your divorce. Begin by reading about Tennessee divorce laws and proceedings.
By avoiding unnecessary delays and staying on track with what is required of you, your case can advance more quickly. Anticipate what the court will require when dividing property, awarding alimony, deciding child custody, and calculating child support. Try to identify issues that will need mediating, further negotiation with attorney assistance, or litigating at trial. Be prepared and be practicable. Use a calendar to schedule important events, hearings, and deadlines. You’ll need it.
Tennessee Waiting Period After Divorce
Divorce in Tennessee is a legal process with case law, statutes, and court rules (lots of them). One of those divorce laws is Tennessee’s statutory waiting period. Working with a divorce attorney can certainly help move the case along, but there is no skirting the mandatory waiting period.
TN Divorce Waiting Periods: 60-Days or 90-Days After Filing for Divorce
Each of the 15 grounds for Tennessee divorce, including irreconcilable differences (no-fault grounds for divorce), is listed in T.C.A. § 36-4-101. That same Tennessee statute sets forth the waiting times for the earliest possible date a divorce may be heard and decided by the judge. Begin crossing the days off your wall calendar from the date the divorce petition is filed.
● Tennessee Divorce Waiting Period (No Minor Children)
If the divorce is by mutual consent and the spouse’s have a marital dissolution agreement (MDA), seek a no-fault divorce, and do not have minor children, then the earliest the court can hear their divorce is 60 days after the petition was filed. Importantly, there can be no contested issues for the judge to decide. The spouses must have all their ducks in a row and be in total agreement.
If a disputed issue should surface (over an award of rehabilitative alimony, for example), then the 60-day waiting period flies out the window. A contested divorce will take longer than two months to finalize.
A divorce grounded on fault, such as adultery, will also take longer than 60 days. The spouse seeking the divorce has the burden of proving marital fault in court. By contrast, no-fault grounds can be agreed to by the spouses.
● Tennessee Divorce Waiting Period with Children
With minor children and custody decisions to make, the earliest the spouses’ divorce can be heard is 90 days after filing the complaint. Even though the spouses have settled every issue, have their MDA and parenting agreement signed and ready, 90 days must still pass before the judge hears the case.
Anyone hoping to end a marriage with children quickly needs to engage a divorce attorney early on. Parents will need to negotiate a parenting agreement and submit their permanent parenting plan to the court. (The parenting plan can be filed with the Complaint for Divorce or be filed separately soon after). The Tennessee judge must approve the parenting plan. If the court does not approve the plan as being in the children’s best interests, then the 90-day waiting period is, once again, out the window. The divorce will take longer than three months.
What goes into a parenting plan? Memphis, TN, divorce attorney Miles Mason, Sr., guides parents through actual examples in his book – Tennessee Parenting Plans and Child Support Worksheets: Building a Constructive Future for Your Family (available on Amazon).
Understandably, the desire to get the legalities over and done with is a compelling one. No matter how strongly and you and your spouse feel about the need for divorce, you will be subject to Tennessee’s mandatory cooling off period. Be prepared for it.
Time for Reconciliation?
From time to time, Tennessee couples do reconcile. By requiring 60-days or 90-days to cool off, the Tennessee legislature helped ensure that spouses have a reasonable opportunity to reconcile their differences. To step away from the conflict, to reflect on their situation, and to consider marriage counseling or other services. If reconciliation is not going to happen, then at least the spouses can be confident that divorce is the best solution for them. Certainty is particularly important when minor children are involved. Divorce can be dramatic with life-changing repercussions. The mandatory cooling off period is one way to assure a divorce really is what the spouses want.
State of Tennessee Waiting Period After Divorce
It is one thing to know there is a minimum waiting period of either 60-days or 90-days with minor children. It is another thing entirely to believe all divorces move along at the same rate so that on the 60th or 90th day – “Voila!” – you are now divorced. That’s an over simplification of what needs to happen.
The mandatory waiting period is, at least, a sure thing. The divorce will not take place earlier than the waiting period allows. However, a contested case could move the divorce out years from the filing date. These are a few of the property division, child custody, and alimony decisions that must be made in a typical divorce where the couple has been married for five or more years:
- Who gets the marital home?
- Who will be the children’s primary residential parent (PRP)?
- Will parenting time be nearly equal?
- How much child support will the alternate residential parent (ARP) be paying?
- How should a pension, individual retirement arrangement, or military retired pay be divided?
- Should transitional alimony, periodic alimony, lump sum alimony, or rehabilitative alimony be awarded?
- Will complex assets, business interests, rental properties, and investment interests require financial investigation and analysis by a forensic accountant (CPA)?
When you have questions about how to proceed, talk to a lawyer.
Resolving Divorce Issues Before Filing the Complaint
Experienced Tennessee lawyers encourage their clients to resolve as many divorce matters as they possible can before the petition for divorce is filed – that is, so long as they don’t sign anything before talking this over with the lawyer. Divorce can be by mutual consent. Complete agreements are possible and divorces can be short. But if there is any contested issue, the endgame will take longer. For some couples, it could be 18 to 30 months, depending upon the specifics of the case and the proceedings required.
Waiting Period Before Remarrying
Under Tennessee law, the divorced person is free to remarry anytime. Prudence should prevail before the nuptials take place, however. Although Tennessee divorce law does not impose any waiting period before remarrying, the divorced spouse should respect the second waiting period in practice. Shelby County divorce attorneys frequently advise clients to wait until the Tennessee appeal period has expired. This means holding off on the wedding for another 30 days. Rule 4, Tenn. Rules of Appellate Procedure.
The reasoning is simple. If a spouse is dissatisfied in some way with the judgment and exercises his or her right to appeal the trial court’s order, then the divorce is not final until the appellate court renders a decision. That’s a technicality that could have profound consequences to the bride or groom who is, because of the pending appeal, still married to someone else.
In some cases, an appeals court will reverse the trial court’s order (because the judge wrongly applied the law or, perhaps, abused judicial discretion) and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with the appellate court’s decision. It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.
Free Tennessee Divorce Resources
Here are a few Tennessee divorce resources to help you prepare for the speediest divorce possible:
We recommend you hire a lawyer, but, if you do represent yourself, reviewing court-approved Tennessee divorce forms is helpful. The available forms are approved for use throughout Tennessee, but local rules may also apply. Use the instructions and numbered divorce forms as a guide. After looking through the forms, pull together the supporting documentation and information that will be needed to complete your divorce pleadings. Get ready to supply documents, files, personal information, and financial details to your divorce lawyer.
Are you familiar with the Shelby County Divorce Referee’s role? The divorce referee does not provide legal advice and does not represent either party. Instead, the referee appears in all divorces, attends divorce trials, and conducts hearings to set attorneys’ fees, temporary alimony and child support (pendente lite support).
These are court-approved forms appropriate for the local Shelby County, Tennessee, Chancery Court. A couple examples are the petition for name change (adult or child) and petition to modify child support.
The ABA has compiled several charts listing divorce and domestic relations statutes effective in each of the 50 states. Use the ABA’s quick reference to statutes regarding alimony factors, custody factors, child support guidelines, grounds for divorce, residency requirements, division of property, and visitation for grandparents and other third parties.
If divorce involves minor children, then child support should be ordered. The Tennessee Dept. of Human Services’ administers the child support program for many parents. The Tennessee Child Support Handbook is free to download.
How long does divorce take in Tennessee? That depends. The speediest dissolutions occur when spouses are in total agreement on no-fault divorce grounds and have an MDA and permanent parenting plan ready to go. They are 60 or 90 days. Many couples will need more time and additional proceedings to work through the issues. Never give up on the possibility of agreement. Last minute settlements on the eve or trial happen more often than you might think.
About Miles Mason
Memphis divorce attorney and family lawyer, Miles Mason, Sr. JD, CPA founded the Miles Mason Family Law Group, PLC. The firm practices divorce and family law only representing clients living in Memphis, Germantown, Collierville, Bartlett, Eads, Shelby Co., Fayette Co. Tipton Co., and the surrounding west Tennessee area. For more information, see our Meet the Team page.