The first issue to consider is the definition of uncontested divorce. It simply means that you and your spouse are willing and will be able to agree to issues such as division of property and child custody. An uncontested divorce is a “no-fault” divorce filed under the grounds of “irreconcilable differences.” This simply means that no blame is assessed to either party but the parties agree that they no longer wish to be married. An uncontested divorce has many advantages over a contested divorce. It is finalized quickly (60 days after filing if you have no children born of the marriage; 90 days if you do have children born of the marriage), whereas a contested divorce may take up to two years or more. You will not need to appear in court during your uncontested divorce; a contested divorce will end in a trial any may require numerous court appearances before you even get to trial. Obviously, an uncontested divorce will be much less expensive and stressful than a contested divorce.
The process is straightforward, so do you really need a lawyer? The answer is almost always yes. Although there are numerous self-help options and you are by no means required to hire a lawyer for an uncontested divorce, there is no substitute for an attorney who is knowledgeable about the process. This is especially true if you have children together, jointly own a home or vehicles, have retirement accounts, or if one spouse is a military member. It is important to note that one single attorney cannot represent both you and your spouse. Often, one spouse will hire an attorney to create the required paperwork and the other spouse will carefully read all of the agreements and simply sign the required documents.
There are two important documents that are required in your uncontested divorce: the Marital Dissolution Agreement (or “MDA”) and a Parenting Plan if you have children born of the marriage. The MDA will resolve all issues concerning the division of marital property and marital debt. The Parenting Plan will determine who is the primary custodian, the daily and holiday schedule of custody, tax exemptions, who is responsible for important decisions, who will provide insurance and how child support will be paid. Your attorney will calculate child support by using the Tennessee guidelines, which take into account the income of each spouse as well as the percentage of time that each spouse has custody of the child or children.
When your waiting period has expired, your attorney will file a Final Decree of Divorce which will incorporate those documents and file a few other required forms on your behalf. Your case will be set for Final Hearing with the court but you will not need to attend. A few days after your Final Hearing, your attorney will receive copies of the Final Decree of Divorce and provide them to you and your ex-spouse.
A word of caution: do not get remarried for at least thirty days after your divorce becomes final. There is a thirty day appeal period that you need to wait through just to make sure your ex-spouse does not appeal for any reason.
There is no way to make a divorce completely stress-free, but understanding the general process and consulting with a knowledgeable family law attorney will definitely make a big difference. An uncontested divorce can go very smoothly and quickly. It will require agreements and discussion with your spouse about every topic mentioned above, but once you have come to agreement, your attorney will take care of the required documents and ensure that your divorce covers every necessary aspect and has no delays.