Contested Divorce Lawyer in Nashville
Contested Divorce in Tennessee| TN Divorce Trial | Turner Law Offices, P.C.
A contested divorce is a divorce where the spouses are unable to agree on ALL terms and enter a Marital Dissolution Agreement (MDA) and Permanent Parenting Plan (PPP) (if there are minor children). The contested divorce process can be long and expensive. The contested divorce process depends, in large part, on the actions of each spouse throughout the divorce proceedings.
Contested Divorce Process and Timeline
Generally speaking, the contested divorce process may be broken down into distinct tasks or phases. The general contested divorce will follow the timeline set forth below:
- Filing Complaint for Divorce—A Tennessee divorce begins with the filing of a Complaint for Divorce. Filing for divorce puts the world on notice that a spouse is seeking a divorce. Filing fees in Tennessee vary from county to county, but are currently in the range of $184.50 without children and $259.50 with children.
- Servicing of Summons and Complaint on Spouse—After filing a Complaint for Divorce, these papers must be served on the spouse with a Summons requiring the spouse to answer the divorce papers. The Summons and Complaint can be served in various ways: 1) by a Sheriff’s deputy, 2) private process server, or 3) certified mail, return receipt requested. Upon being properly served with the divorce papers, the spouse has thirty (30) days to file an answer or answer and counterclaim.
- Written Discovery–After the filing of the initial pleadings, i.e. divorce papers, an initial group of written discovery requests will normally be exchanged between spouses. Written discovery must be answered completely within thirty (30) days from receipt of such discovery. Written discovery includes Interrogatories, Requests for Production of Documents, Requests for Admission.
- Mediation—Mediation is an informal settlement process where the spouses with their respective attorneys meet with a mediation, an experienced matrimonial attorney who has specialized training to settle divorce cases. Mediation must be completed before a case may be set for trial before a judge. To properly prepare for mediation, each attorney will prepare and submit a Mediation Statement to the mediator. The Mediation Statement details each party’s respective position with regard to all of the issues in the case. The purpose of mediation is to give each party the mediator’s unbiased legal opinion about the strengths and weaknesses of their respective case for settlement purposes.
- Depositions—After written discovery has been completely answered and mediation has failed, most attorneys will want a Discovery Deposition of the other spouse or any other fact witness before the trial. The purpose of depositions is to know what the other spouse and all fact witnesses will testify to at trial. These witnesses testimony is recorded by a court reporter, and the witness cannot change their testimony at trial.
- Pendente Lite Hearings—Pendente Lite Hearings, or Temporary Hearings, are made early in divorce cases before the final trial of the divorce case. The first time you will normally appear in Divorce Court before the Judge assigned to hear your divorce case is for a temporary order hearing. The most common issues heard pendent lite is have the court issue orders regarding spousal support, child support, parenting time/schedule, and contribution toward marital expenses. The court will endeavor to maintain the status quo during the divorce to insure that the family’s debts and expenses are being paid timely to avoid any foreclosure of real estate, repossession of personal property, cancellation of insurance, or disconnection of utilities. It is very important to do well at the pendent lite hearing, as judges do not generally change their temporary orders until the final hearing of the divorce case.
- Trial Preparation–Almost all divorce cases settle during the mediation process, and all but approximately 2% of all contested divorces settle before the final divorce trial. A competent contested divorce lawyer will fully and adequately prepare for trial. Most trial preparation time is spent preparing exhibits, meeting with witnesses, and finalizing legal arguments and positions. During this time, most contested divorce lawyers will meet with clients at least weekly to go over all exhibits and testimony to be adequately prepared. A Proposed Division of Assets and Liabilities and Rule 22 Statement of Witness and Exhibits will be prepared and filed with the court seventy-two (72) hours before trial.
- Trial–The purpose of a divorce trial is present evidence to the court to convince the judge to see the important facts of your case from your perspective and to make a final decision on all issues in your favor. The judge takes testimony from witnesses and receives evidence in the form of exhibits through the witnesses. From the trial, the judge will make specific Findings of Facts. The judge will then apply Tennessee divorce law to the facts of the case to render a Final Decree of Divorce. The contested divorce trial process begins with both attorneys making a brief opening statement outlining the facts expected to be presented during the trial and suggesting how the judge should rule on the issues. After opening statements, the Petitioner, i.e. person who filed for divorce, will go first, calling witnesses and introducing exhibits for the court to consider. After each witness testifies, the opposing attorney can ask questions during the process known as cross examination. After the Petitioner rests, the Respondent can call its witnesses and introduce exhibits through them. After all of the witnesses have testified and all exhibits have been entered, each attorney will have the opportunity to make a final closing argument, summarizing the important facts elicited through testimony of witnesses and introduction of exhibits to convince the judge to rule in their favor.
- Post-Trial–After the trial of the contested divorce case, a party may file a Rule 59/60 Motion to Alter or Amend the Final Judgment. Additionally, within thirty (30) days of entry of a Final Decree of Divorce, a party not satisfied with the outcome of the case may file an appeal to the Tennessee Court of Appeals.
Hire An Experienced Contested Divorce Lawyer
Turner Law Offices, P.C. has over 20 years of experience handling complicated contested divorce matters. Our Nashville contested divorce lawyers have years of courtroom trial experience handling all facets of divorce. Call us today for your Free Initial Consultation or complete our online contact form to set a time for you to meet in person with a contested divorce lawyer. To properly prepare for your meeting with the divorce lawyer, please completely fill out the Divorce Questionnaire and submit to our office prior to your appointment.