I am an attorney that practices law in Middle Tennessee. www.bestclarksvillelawyer.com. I start every blog on divorce with this disclaimer: Nothing in this blog constitutes establishing an attorney-client relationship. Also, this blog is general advice and commentary and should not be construed as a substitute for either the need for getting specific advice from a lawyer or from hiring a lawyer. In Tennessee, most divorces are complex and require the hiring of a lawyer.
From my initial disclaimer, you can probably tell that I am generally pretty wary of recommending that people do their own divorces in Tennessee. Tennessee is a state that generally has fairly complex divorce proceedings procedurally. However, the Tennessee Supreme Court has a website and approved forms for those seeking to file their own divorce. Check it out by clicking this link.
Some states, usually West Coast states, have check the block divorces. This means that the average person who wants to get a divorce can get standard forms from the court in their state and fill out the forms, turn them in and get an uncontested divorce. With a filing fee, and agreement between the parties, they generally do not need a lawyer and can get through the entire process, quickly and easily.
That is generally not the case in Tennessee. The divorce process starts with a complaint for divorce. The complaint is a document that had specific requirements set out by Tennessee Statue and to properly fill out the complaint requires either knowledge of the law or help from an online service. Obviously, my recommendation is to use a lawyer, but when finances become a problem or the divorce is very simple, the parties my want to try and file the divorce pro se.
A pro se divorce is a divorce where the parties do the divorce themselves. Generally, this is an uncontested divorce where the parties agree to the terms of the divorce. As I have stated prior to this, an uncontested divorce requires a marital dissolution agreement, which is an agreement on how to divide marital property. If there are children involved, the parties need to work out a parenting plan, which includes a schedule for visitation, designation of primary residential custodian, and child support.
In order to do the MDA and parenting plan without the help of the lawyer, the parties need to have some understanding of what a parenting plan and MDA look like. As divorces become more expensive, online divorce services that create divorce packets for people will become much more prolific as time goes on.
The problem in Tennessee is that in order to get by a judge and have him grant an uncontested divorce it must meet his or her specific requirements. Essentially, in Tennessee, the problem is that from County to County and Judge to Judge, the requirements for an uncontested divorce can be different. In some counties, in order to get divorced, the parties have to testify as to grounds for divorce. In other counties, there needs to be a Notice of Hearing to set the final hearing, but then the final decree is signed behind closed doors. Some judges will allow a deviation in the child support guidelines and others will not. Some judges are extremely lenient towards the pro se litigant, others are not.
This diversity in Counties, Courts and Judges creates a mine field when a person attempts to go online and buy a generic online divorce packet. So, if you decide you are going to try to do your divorce by yourself, be very careful. Call the local court clerk and see if they will give some advice on what exactly you will need to do.
The major pitfall that happens here in Montgomery County on a pro se divorce is that the parties do not know how to do the child support calculation. They will file all of the paperwork and forget to do a child support worksheet or they will make an agreement that does not include child support.