How to File For Divorce in Tennessee

How to file divorce in Tennessee

A Guide to Filing for Divorce in Tennessee

Filing for divorce in Tennessee can be a stressful and emotional process.   To minimize your concerns, the best thing you can do is arm yourself with good information to help you understand what will happen along every step of the way.  Easing your fears will make it easier to move forward and help you make the right decisions.

Here’s some basic information for you to consider as you begin to navigate through your divorce:

Gather important information

important information

You can set the tone for how your divorce will proceed from the outset if you approach the task of gathering information the right way. Doing so can save you time, money and stress in the long haul.

You’ll also give yourself the best possible chance at the most favorable outcome if your documents and information are in order. Starting early and being organized are keys to successfully completing this task.

We’ve simplified the process for you by creating a Divorce Information Checklist you can check out in our article The Ultimate Divorce Checklist: The Information You Need to Prepare for Divorce.

Decide how you will Proceed With Your Divorce

Which Divorce Procedure to Use

It is in your best interests to fully understand all of your options when you are thinking about getting a divorce. The path that you ultimately take will be determined by the relationship you have with your spouse.

Deciding whether to pursue an uncontested divorce in Tennessee or attempting to negotiate a settlement through a cooperative effort of some sort could save you a lot time and money, making it easier for you to transition to life as a single person.

For an overview of what you can expect with the various paths to divorce, check out our article What are the Types of Divorce? This will help you to reach a decision about how to move forward on all the other parts of your case.

Determine What Forms You Will Need to Complete

Forms to Prepare

To officially start your divorce, you will need to file several forms in Tennessee.  The state has divorce forms that were approved by the Tennessee Supreme Court as “universally acceptable and legally sufficient” meaning that when they are filled out correctly, all Tennessee courts that hear divorce cases must accept the forms.

You can find the appropriate forms to use for an Agreed Divorce, meaning that the divorce will not be contested, by going here.

You must meet all of the following terms, otherwise you will probably need to retain the services of a lawyer to assist you with your divorce.

Filing Your Documents in Tennessee

File Your Forms for a Divorce

After completing the appropriate forms, you will need to file them with the Court Clerk in your county.  You must pay the appropriate filing fees to the clerk of the court. If you and your spouse cannot afford to pay the fees, you may request a waiver when you file.

Serving Your Spouse With Divorce Papers in Tennessee

After you file your forms with the court, you must also provide your spouse with those forms so that they can have a chance to respond.  When you file your papers, the court clerk will issue a summons that you will take to the local sheriff’s office or a process server.

You will need to provide information about where to find your spouse at that time, including a home or work address so that your spouse can be personally served.

In some cases, you can also complete proof of service by mail. A lawyer can mail another lawyer or an individual a lawsuit, and the individual receiving the lawsuit can sign a Waiver of Service of Process, acknowledging receipt of the lawsuit by mail.

Frequently Asked Questions About Filing for Divorce in Tennessee

How much does it cost to file for a divorce in Tennessee?

How much does it cost

Depending on the county where you file, the filing fee could range from $100 to $500.

Related Reading: A Guide to Divorce Financial Planning.

Can divorce fees be waived in Tennessee?

If you can’t afford to pay fees associated with filing for a divorce in Tennessee, you can request a fee waiver.  Check with your county courthouse for the appropriate form to complete.

What are the residency requirements to file for a divorce in Tennessee?

To meet residency requirements, one or both spouses must have lived in Tennessee for at least the past 6 months or both lived in Tennessee when the decision was made to divorce

How long does it take to get a divorce in Tennessee?

How long does it take

If spouses have minor children a divorce cannot be granted in Tennessee for at least 90 days as part of a “cooling off” period after the Complaint for Divorce is filed. This is referred to as a “cooling off” period. If there are no minor children, a divorce can be granted 60 days after the Complaint for Divorce is filed.

In contested divorces, especially those where there are many debts or assets to unwind, or if there are major child custody challenges to negotiate, a divorce may take as long as one to two years to complete.

The only other consideration is a residency requirement.  A divorce may be granted in Tennessee only if the plaintiff or the defendant has lived in the state for at least six months preceding the filing of the Complaint for Divorce.

Can I file for divorce in Tennessee without using a lawyer?

file for divorce without a lawyer

Yes.  When you and your spouse are able to agree on all issues related to your divorce, you can file for an uncontested divorce, saving you time and money.

Are there any special rules regarding divorce in Tennessee if I am pregnant?


You can file for divorce while you are pregnant and seek and temporary support during the divorce.  The child is presumed to be your spouses since the child was conceived during the marriage.  Paternity tests may be required to prove otherwise.

If the divorce is granted before the child is born, you would have to file a separate petition for child support and may even have to establish parentage since the child would not be considered “of the marriage.”

How is my divorce affected if I am a member of the military in Tennessee?


Certain state and federal laws come into play if a member of the military is involved in a divorce in Tennessee.

Once forms have been filed to begin the divorce, copies must be served on the spouse to give him or her a chance to respond.  When one spouse is in the military, they have certain protections afforded to them by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act that allow them to postpone the divorce while they are overseas or otherwise not able to adequately respond to the petition due to military service commitments.

The SCRA eases many legal and financial burdens of military personnel and their families who face the added challenges of active duty.  It also prevents active duty military members from being held in default for failing to respond to a divorce action.

Federal law dictates that child and spousal support awards may not exceed 60% of a servicemembers pay and allowances if they are single.  That amount drops to 50% if the servicemember remarries and has a new family they must support.

Child support is determined using normal Tennessee child support guidelines and worksheets to determine an appropriate amount that must be paid. Find a quick and easy-to-use child support calculator here

A service member’s parenting rights are the same as a civilian’s, but when reassignment and deployment to takes place, this will create the need for changes in the parenting schedule, which could happen several times in a military career.

Since the passage of the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act, military pensions are now considered “property” rather than “income,” and as such, a divorce court can divide it between a member of the military and their ex-spouse.

The military is willing to send such payments directly to the ex, provided that the marriage lasted at least 10 years and that those 10 years “overlapped” with a minimum of 10 years’ service by the service member.

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