Divorce Process in Tennessee: What to Expect

When you decide to end your marriage, you need to understand the basic principles of the procedure for divorce. The knowledge of the documents to prepare, information to gather, the steps to take, and the timeframe for each of them is necessary to go through the process of divorce efficiently.

While the TN divorce process is quite standard, the state has some specific requirements and regulations that must be followed. You should also know that you can have a somewhat simplified divorce process in Tennessee or even an online divorce process.

We have prepared the answers to the most common questions about the Tennessee divorce process. We will discuss what the process of divorce is, outline the main divorce steps, and explain the principles of the agreed divorce process in Tennessee.

How to Begin a Divorce Process in Tennessee

When starting the divorce process, you need to collect the required documents, check the relevant laws, and ensure that you meet the state requirements for divorce. If you do not know how to begin a divorce process in Tennessee, you can find detailed information at the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts website. Below, we offer a short but comprehensive guide to what the process of divorce is in TN.

Residency Requirements

To start a divorce process, you should meet the state residency requirements. According to the Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-4-104, one or both spouses must have lived in the state for at least six months before filing for divorce. The petition must be submitted to the chancery or circuit court of the county in which either one or both parties reside (Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-4-105).

Grounds for Divorce

The standard procedure for divorce requires the plaintiff to state the legal reason for marriage dissolution. In Tennessee, you can file for both no-fault and at-fault divorce.

For the no-fault TN divorce process, you should state irreconcilable differences as the grounds for your marriage dissolution. In this case, no one needs to prove the other party’s fault. If the case is uncontested, meaning both spouses agree to divorce, amicably settle all the divorce issues, and sign the marital agreement, they can file for a simplified procedure or even undergo an online divorce process without the need to hire an attorney.

Your Tennessee divorce process can also be initiated on the grounds of the other spouse’s fault, as stipulated in the Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-4-101:

  • Adultery;
  • Bigamy;
  • Desertion;
  • Impotence;
  • Wife’s pregnancy from someone else without the husband’s knowledge;
  • Substance abuse;
  • Conviction of a felony or an infamous crime;
  • Domestic violence or indignities;
  • Attempt on spouse’s life, etc.

Divorce Papers

One of the most important divorce steps is completing the paperwork. Since the number and type of forms to submit to the court will depend on your personal situation, it is advisable to learn which ones are necessary for your specific case before obtaining and filling them in. Some of the basic divorce forms in Tennessee include:

  • Request for Divorce;
  • Spouses’ Personal Information;
  • Health Insurance Notice;
  • Divorce Agreement;
  • Final Decree of Divorce;
  • Divorce Certificate.

Generally, the process of divorce entails several stages, and you will need specific documents for each of them. Make sure that you complete and file the documents accurately and in the proper order.

Step-by-Step Divorce Process in Tennessee

The divorce process in TN usually includes the standard basic steps of preparation, filing, serving, waiting, and attending a hearing. If you search for information about what the process of divorce is, pay attention to the details of the typical divorce process in Tennessee and check with the county court clerk the specifics of starting the divorce in your location.

Below, we offer a description of the main divorce steps in TN:

To initiate the divorce process in Tennessee, you should prepare a set of papers. The starting package of documents will likely include the Request for Divorce and the Spouses’ Personal Information. The rest of the papers depend on your specific situation and the county.

You should take the originals and the copies of the completed papers to the chancery or circuit court of the county where either one or both of you live and pay a filing fee. The clerk will time-stamp them and return the copies to you. Make sure to prepare the required number of copies before filing documents.

After the initial papers are filed, you should serve the Request and the Summons on your spouse to notify them that the process of divorce has started. In Tennessee, papers can be delivered through certified mail or using the services of the sheriff’s deputy or a process server.

Your spouse then has 30 days to file an answer or a counterclaim. If there is no response within this time, the divorce may be granted by default.

The divorce process in TN presupposes a waiting period after the papers are served. If you do not have minor children, you will need to wait 60 days. If children are involved, this period will last for 90 days.

During the waiting period, you and your spouse may be required to negotiate, settle the agreements on your marriage dissolution, and complete and file some more documents. At this stage, you would need to prepare the Divorce Agreement that outlines all the terms and conditions of your divorce and some other documents, including the ones on child support and custody.

The standard procedure for divorce would include a court hearing for both contested and uncontested cases after the waiting period is over. If the divorce is uncontested, only the plaintiff should attend the hearing in most counties. You should bring all the time-stamped copies of the documents with you and answer some judge’s questions for them to make the final decision.

If the case is contested, there will be several hearings and the final trial. Both parties must be present at all these hearings to resolve the disputes before the final judgment is made and the court issues the relevant orders.

After the judge has made the decision, they will sign the Final Decree of Divorce. You can obtain its copy from the court clerk’s office for a certain fee. This document finalizes your Tennessee divorce process.

Mutual Divorce Process in Tennessee

In Tennessee, courts offer a simplified procedure for divorce called agreed divorce. Couples who decide to dissolve their marriage and have reached all the agreements concerning the involved issues can undergo this mutual divorce process in Tennessee. The set of documents will differ for cases with and without children involved.

The conditions to be eligible for the simplified divorce process in Tennessee with no children are:

  • One or both spouses must have lived in the state for at least six months before filing the request


  • Both spouses must live in the state at the moment of making a decision to divorce;
  • There should be no children together who are minors, disabled, or attending high school in the case;
  • The spouses should not possess any joint land or buildings, business, or retirement benefits;
  • Neither of the spouses should be pregnant;
  • Both spouses must be ready to dissolve their marriage;
  • Spouses agree on all the issues concerning property division, child custody and support, alimony, etc.;
  • Both spouses must agree to sign a Divorce Agreement.

You may opt for an agreed divorce process in Tennessee only if you meet all these conditions. In this case, the process of divorce will be much faster, cheaper, and easier since you will not need to waste time on lengthy negotiations and hearings or spend much money on attorney’s fees.

So, what is the process of divorce by agreement? The basic divorce steps are mostly the same as in the traditional process of divorce in Tennessee. However, you will file the papers together with your spouse, will not need to serve them with the Summons, and will not need hearings and a trial. Generally, it is a perfect option if you decide to have an online divorce process and do everything on your own.


The divorce process in Tennessee entails several basic steps: preparing the documents, filing the complaint, serving the spouse, waiting 60 or 90 days, attending the hearing, and obtaining the Final Decree. The procedure may vary depending on your specific circumstances.

To start a divorce process in Tennessee, you need to prepare a set of necessary documents and file them with the chancery or circuit court of the county where either one or both spouses live.