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Tennessee Court Records

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How to file for divorce in Tennessee

The legal terminology for dissolution of marriage in Tennessee is divorce from the bonds of matrimony. The state also refers to it as absolute divorce. Here the law ends an existing marital union between two persons who are still alive. The laws of the state on divorce (Chapter 4, Title 36) form the framework for the process and rules of procedure of a divorce case in the state. Most of the time a divorce case does not come alone, but comes with other issues regarding property rights and custody allocation. Therefore, it is important to get enough information about the rules of the state regarding divorce before embarking on one. The Chancery and Circuit Courts in the state have general jurisdiction over divorce cases. The census update as of 2018 by the US Census Bureau shows that Tennessee ranks 14th in the United States with a divorce rate of 9.1 divorces per 1000 aged 15 years or older. This rate is higher than the national average of 7.7 divorces per 1000 women of the same age bracket. Ten years earlier (2008), the divorce rate was 12.8 per 1000, thus reflecting a 3.7 drop in number over a ten year range.

Do I need a reason for divorce in Tennessee?

Tennessee accepts no-faults as grounds for divorce. The laws of the state also provide the following statutory grounds for divorce from the bonds of matrimony:

  • Impotence of either party at the time of the marriage
  • The existence of a concurrent marriage by either party
  • Adultery
  • Intentional abandonment for at least one year
  • The existence of a felony conviction that renders a party infamous or sentenced to incarceration at the prison
  • Murderous attempts on the life of the other
  • Refusal to move with spouse into the state with no good reason, plus willful absence from a resident spouse for at least three years
  • Pregnancy at the time of marriage outside the knowledge of the other party
  • Alcohol or drug addiction contracted after marriage
  • Domestic abuse or inhumane treatment
  • Failure to assume responsibility of marital responsibilities (otherwise known as marital
  • Separate residences) for at least two years during which there has been no children between both parties or any form of cohabitation

What makes up insufficient grounds for divorce in Tennessee are irreconcilable differences where parties do not have a satisfactory arrangement by written agreement for custody and maintenance of children in the marriage, settlement of property rights between both parties. Also, Tennessee State laws impose a documentation of proof of the allegations in a fault-ground divorce before proceeding to grant or dismiss the bill.

Why do I need a divorce lawyer?

While a divorce process may be straightforward, the reality of an unfavorable outcome in terms of settlements is a good reason to consider the services of a divorce lawyer. For one, they provide expert advice on how to go about the case. They can navigate the complexities of a divorce case based on experience and a better understanding of the law.

How do I get started in a divorce in Tennessee?

To begin a divorce process In Tennessee, the plaintiff must meet the residency requirement of being a bona fide resident of the state when the grounds for divorce took place. At the time of filing, either of the parties most have lived in Tennessee for at least six months earlier. Persons serving in the military for one year in the state are also residents, so long as there is no evidence of a residence elsewhere. The filing party must submit a complaint or petition for divorce in the county where the defendant lives unless he or she is a non-resident of the state or convict. In that case, the plaintiff should file in the county where he or she lives. A bill for divorce must be on file for at least 60 days before a court hearing if the couple have no unmarried children under the age of 18 years. If otherwise the waiting period after filing is a minimum of 90 days.

Defendants in a divorce case in Tennessee get served by process through a third party, usually a private process server. Another way to serve papers is by mail. The rules of court procedure expect the receiving party to sign a waiver of service of process and acknowledge the receipt of the documents by mail. If the receiving party refuses, the filing party can request the courts to assess the cost of process service to the receiving party.

The next step is a response from the receiving party, otherwise known as a counter complaint. The nature of the response will determine to a large extent what direction the case will proceed from then on. If the respondent alleges no false grounds, both parties have the option of a negotiated settlement. If there are false grounds for divorce, the courts may issue a mandatory injunction that prohibits any form of activity that may have a significant influence on the outcome of the process. Such activities include major sales or transactions of assets or the use of marital funds, threatening of physical assault against the other party, etc.

From this point, a divorce case can proceed either on a negotiated settlement, or a contested trial. The advantage of a negotiated settlement is that they arrive at a resolution more quickly since the decisions arising from the settlement come from a mutual agreement. It also confers some privacy to the involved parties. In a contested trial, the case proceeds from a counter complaint to a discovery process. In a discovery process, there are interrogations and depositions made to get information from either party.

The next step after discovery is the mediation process. Statistics show that over 50% of cases that go through a mediation process get settled more quickly than after trial in Tennessee.

If settlement negotiations or mediation fails, the case heads eventually to trial in Tennessee Most courts will impose a trial date on the parties in order to get them to take an early decision in the negotiated settlement option. Occasionally, the merits of the case will require both parties to apply for a trial date by themselves. The only advantage there is to a trial is that the outcome is binding on both parties, and a violation of the orders may lead to more legal difficulties. The process of a trial is expensive, both financially and otherwise, and can last for up to several weeks, depending on the caseload of the court, sometimes into months. When the judge decides on the case, both parties have 30 days to file an appeal according to appellate rules of procedure. The appeal process may extend the timeline of the case up to an extra year.

How to file for divorce in Tennessee without a lawyer?

The services of a lawyer are unnecessary if there are no complexities in the divorce case. If there are, and the parties have already come to a settlement and agreement, especially on the no-fault grounds divorce, then the courts can grant the petition. The services of a lawyer may become mandatory if there is some criminal dimension to the case, as is seen with Domestic abuse.

How does Tennessee divorce mediation work?

Mediation in Tennessee (Rule 31) is an alternative dispute resolution which forms an integral part of a family law case. The peculiarities of a family law case make the need for members of a family to consider the possibility of resolution without a trial. Tennessee law requires mediation in all divorces before allowing them to proceed on a trial. Some circumstances however may require omission of mediation. Most mediators in a Tennessee divorce case are lawyers with a neutral ground on the case that have a sound knowledge or family law matters. The goal of mediation is to settle disputes and disagreements between both parties in a divorce. Sometimes a settlement may lead to the dismissal of the bill of petition for divorce, or only serve to make the process of divorce easier.

How long after mediation is divorce final in Tennessee?

It depends on the outcome of the mediation process. If mediation is effective for persons who have agreed on the divorce, the case skips trial and proceeds to the court signing the dissolution of marriage decree. If it fails, then the case proceeds to a contested trial which may last from several weeks to months depending on the complexities of the case, the caseload of the court, etc. A divorce is final when the court signs the dissolution of marriage decree.

Are divorce records public in Tennessee?

Divorce records in Tennessee make up a part of public records being a court record. Restrictions lie in the time frame of existing records, or certain information which the law considers confidential. Records less than 50 years from filing are not accessible to everyone in the public except those with a legitimate interest, that is, the persons listed in the record, their immediate family members, and anyone with legal rights to the record such as representing attorneys or court-authorized persons. Sensitive Information about property settlements and child custody remains hidden from the public in order to protect the interests of the involved persons. It is especially true of information about children in the divorce record. Note also that records placed under seal either by court order or upon request by one party will not be accessible by members of the public.

How do I get Tennessee divorce records?

The following are necessary to get a divorce record in Tennessee:

  • Spouses names
  • The County where the divorce took place
  • A 5-year time estimation during which the divorce must have taken place

Divorce records of 1969 or earlier are available at the Tennessee State Library and Archives. Records from 1970 till date are accessible upon requests either in person, or by mail at the state vital records office. The record office charges $15 per copy of a divorce record payable in check or money order to Tennessee Vital Records. Be sure to submit the application form along with a valid government issued ID. Otherwise, get the application notarized. Submit in person to:

Tennessee Vital RecordsFirst floor, Andrew Johnson Tower710 James Robertson Parkway,Nashville TN 37243

Submit mail requests to the same address. Spanish-speaking applicants have the option of completing the form in their language.

The other way to get divorce records is to visit the court that created the divorce record.

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