In Tennessee, there are two basic types of divorce proceedings-uncontested and contested. Uncontested divorces are the simplest and least expensive of the two categories.
Uncontested Divorces or No Fault Divorces
Uncontested divorces or no fault divorces are legally termed “irreconcilable differences” divorces. Under Tennessee law, irreconcilable differences is one of the 15 grounds for divorce you may cite in your divorce proceeding.
Oftentimes, in a Complaint for Divorce, a party will cite irreconcilable differences and one more ground such as inappropriate marital conduct. The inappropriate marital conduct ground makes the divorce “contested.” A contested divorce is one you MUST answer and not just throw in the trash. Why? Because if you do not answer within 30 days of when you are served the summons and complaint and take appropriate action (whether irreconcilable differences is thrown in the complaint or not), then you risk defaulting on the complaint.
Simply put, if you do not answer or defend the complaint, then the party filing will generally get whatever they ask for. If you and your spouse decide to get a divorce and agree on every single item, including parenting time, support, personal and real property division, retirement plan division, etc., then an “uncontested” divorce may win the day.
However, this can also be tricky. Too often I have a client with stars in their eyes tell me that they have worked everything out and want to file uncontested only to realize just how many items they disagree on. This can often times lead to a more costly and time consuming ordeal because we proceed on the client’s desire of filing a complaint for irreconcilable differences, but then have to turn around and amend the complaint to include fault grounds. This means, more time, more fees, more expenses, on top of the generally flat inexpensive fee the client already paid for the irreconcilable differences divorce.
I always dig into the client’s story and get to know the situation as best as possible to prevent this. Now, I will say there are certainly times, when the other side decides to buck the process and dig in. This is a different scenario and not the client’s fault. In any event, it is imperative and cost effective to know which category of divorce you wish to proceed under. Sometimes you may have no choice as you have to answer an already-filed fault based complaint.
If you are faced with either scenario, don’t delay in seeking help from our experienced team.