Will My Divorce Actually Go to Trial?

Will My Divorce Actually Go to Trial? If you are of a certain age, you may remember an old show called Divorce Court. In that show, glamourous people sat next to a judge and spilled out their sordid secrets for the world to hear, and eventually that judge would grant them a divorce. There was a lot of swelling music and close-up shots, and every now and then, a couple would proclaim their undying love, and no divorce would be granted.

It was melodramatic drivel and that’s not how the process really works, but there was one thing that show got right: the “trial.” In Divorce Court (and in any televised courtroom reality show), what you see is a bench trial. Unlike criminal or injury cases, which can take place in front of a jury, a bench trial consists of the judge hearing both sides without a jury present. The attorney representing each party will state their case and what they are asking for and provide evidence and reasons why the judge should favor them. The judge will consider all arguments, evidence, and testimony and apply Tennessee’s domestic relations law accordingly. The judge makes the final decision and puts their judgment into the system. If one party disagrees, they can file an appeal with the help of their divorce lawyer.

So when people ask us “Will I have to go to trial for my divorce,” the answer is “kind of.” It depends on the type of divorce you seek, the circumstances unique to your case, and what kind of outcome you’re hoping to achieve. Today, we’re going to look at that process a bit so you know what can happen – and why it’s in your best interest to work with a Maryville divorce lawyer from the start.

How the divorce process works in Tennessee

Saying, “I want a divorce,” and moving out does not end your marriage because a marriage certificate is a legally binding contract. When your marriage ends, you need to take legal measures to end the marriage. Divorce is complex, and you must meet various legal requirements. Couples seeking a divorce must meet residency requirements, where both spouses must reside in Tennessee for a minimum of six months. Separating spouses must also have a legally acceptable reason for their separation. There are actually 15 different grounds for divorce, but some of the more common grounds include:

  • Cruelty to you or your child
  • Your spouse deserted you
  • You live separately without a sexual relationship
  • Adultery
  • Insanity
  • Criminal conviction
  • Irreconcilable differences

You will need to file paperwork and serve your spouse with your intent to divorce. Other court appearances will happen depending on the documents and agreement between both parties. If you agree to the initial terms, you sign them and finalize them with the court. Alimony and asset division are settled outside of court through hearings. Individual circumstances will determine your steps, and it is best to work with a divorce lawyer from beginning to end.

What happens at the court hearing?

Once your file for divorce with the help of a divorce lawyer in Maryville and your spouse receives notice, the court will set a hearing date. The court will set the date after the separation to give you time to resolve the issue independently. Divorce attorneys will negotiate back and forth to find a resolution. In Tennessee, you will be required to go through mediation, where a third party appointed by the court or chosen by you to help you work through your disputes.

If all efforts fail, the bench trial will move forward. The court will decide your fate, and it may even order either spouse to undergo mental health evaluations, co-parenting classes, or custody evaluation if they see fit.

No-fault vs. fault-based divorce

Some marriages end because the love is gone or the couple has grown apart. Other times one person believes the other person ruined the relationship. When you file for an at-fault divorce, you must describe the grounds for the divorce, as listed above.

In a no-fault divorce, no one is to blame, so to speak, and you’ll likely cite “irreconcilable differences” as your reason to get divorced. You should spend less time in court proceedings and not need a judge to decide your fate.

One final option for divorce is citing mutual consent as the grounds for divorce. It is a no-fault, absolute divorce without a waiting period. The parties must file mutual consent agreements that the judge will review. If the judge believes the agreement is fair, they will approve the divorce, and you can move on with your life. There are many nuances to divorces in Tennessee. Working with a Maryville divorce lawyer familiar with these nuances is ideal so you can get the best legal representation possible.

Contested vs. uncontested vs. agreed divorce

Many divorcing couples will argue and push back on every topic. A contested divorce is when one party does not agree with dissolving the marriage or they do not agree with specific topics. The most contentious issues are property division, child custody, alimony, and who pays for the divorce process. These divorces typically end up in court, and a Maryville divorce lawyer is essential to a successful outcome.

An uncontested divorce is when the spouses agree to end the marriage and can agree on most topics. Other topics may require further negotiations. There are usually some underlying issues to address in these divorces requiring legal advice.

An agreed divorce is a little different. In an agreed divorce, both parties fully agree regarding alimony, attorney fees, assets, and debts. When there are children, you must also have agreements for support, co-parenting plans, and custody. These are usually the smoothest divorces, but you should still work with a divorce lawyer to prepare all legal documents. We offer a flat fee for clients seeking an agreed divorce.

When you speak with Shepherd and Long, P.C., we will determine whether you have an absolute or limited divorce, and if it is contested or uncontested. These factors are vital to the procedures we must take and your divorce timelines. If you attend a bench trial and are unhappy with the outcome, you can file an appeal regarding child support, property division, assets, alimony, and more. Call our Maryville divorce attorneys or submit our contact form to file a divorce or an appeal.