Divorce in Tennessee: Average Cost and Time
The average cost of divorce in Tennessee is around $10,000 in attorney's fees and about $3,000 in additional expenses. This is slightly higher than the national average.
You can expect to pay around $17,000 if you have alimony or property division issues. The highest cost is about $20,000 for a divorce case with child support and child custody matters.
While these prices can seem intimidating, there are ways to keep the costs down if divorcing spouses can cooperate during the divorce process.
How Much Are Divorce Filing Fees in Tennessee?
Filing fees for a civil case in Tennessee (called a complaint for divorce) are $184 to $301. The costs change based on whether you have children and if the sheriff serves the papers to your ex.
You or your attorney must file the domestic relations action with your local Tennessee court and pay the filing fee before a judge will set a hearing date for your divorce.
From there, Tennessee law has a 60-day or 90-day waiting period before a local judge will schedule your divorce hearing. During this time, you can try to negotiate outside of court to decide:
- A permanent parenting plan (a child custody arrangement)
- Financial support for minor children
- Alimony (spousal support) if one spouse did not work or earned less
- Property division (splitting debts, accounts, your house, and other assets)
- Any other specific terms for your final decree of divorce (like who keeps the family pet)
If you cannot make fair decisions together on these issues, your two attorneys will negotiate together until both sides are happy. This process can be costly if both parties do not agree for weeks.
You also have the option to pay for a mediator to help you find a fair resolution. On average, a mediator is $100-$200 per hour. Mediation is a great option when spouses cannot communicate effectively or need a neutral third party to keep the discussion on track.
Filing for "Agreed Divorce"
The fastest and cheapest divorce is called an "agreed divorce" in Tennessee. This only applies to people without minor children who do not own property or businesses and do not have retirement benefits.
Basically, if there are no children to discuss and no property to divide, then the divorce paperwork is relatively simple. You can learn about the agreed divorce process from this county's example.
Contested Divorce Cost vs. Uncontested Divorce Cost
Spouses have the option to get an "uncontested divorce." This means there are general irreconcilable differences between the spouses but there is "no fault" on any specific spouse.
Even if a marriage is ending because of cheating, abuse, cruelty, desertion, or other serious issues, you can decide to ignore fault and file for an uncontested divorce. This will save you time and money during the process because most matters are resolved before you even file for divorce.
If proving the fault of your spouse is important to you, your attorney can create a strategy to call witnesses and gather testimony to prove their wrongdoing. This process will cost more and take much longer.
Even if there are no major issues, but your spouse does not want a divorce, you should seek a contested divorce. This means one side "contests" or opposes the divorce.
Contested divorces take time and money during the divorce process, but rest assured that you will eventually be divorced. No spouse can stop a contested divorce just because they don't approve of it.
How Much Does a Divorce Lawyer Cost in Tennessee?
The average attorney in Tennessee is around $200-$300 per hour. This is a standard cost for an experienced divorce attorney. You may see different (and less expensive) hourly rates on periodic bills as law firms use paralegals and other legal staff to handle divorce papers.
Family law attorneys are usually paid hourly, and the hours are tracked during the case. To hire an attorney, you need to sign a contract to put them on retainer. Some law firms will offer flat-fee divorces if the case is straightforward and the spouses are already in agreement.
You will likely get billed through the divorce as costs add up. You should take this into consideration as you fight for a fair settlement in your divorce agreement. Hearing you'll get $50,000 of your ex's retirement benefits sounds great until you subtract the divorce costs and are left with $30,000 or less.
Can I File for Divorce in Tennessee Without a Lawyer?
You do not legally need an attorney to file for divorce. You have the right to file a civil complaint against anyone at any time.
The divorce process can be complicated, and various forms and filing dates can trip up even the most careful person. If you are unsure about the process, forms, or how to get the settlement you want, it is wise to consult with an attorney.
You can start a divorce without an attorney and hire one later on, or start with an attorney and then decide to finish the case by yourself. Since most divorce lawyers work per hour, you can often find a flexible arrangement.
It is important to know that many judges take child support and custody matters seriously, and they might deny your arrangement if they believe it isn't a good or healthy setup for your children. It can be very helpful to have a lawyer review your child custody plan in advance.
How Long Does a Tennessee Divorce Take?
If you have children, there is a 90-day waiting period before the divorce is finalized. If you do not have minor children, the waiting period is reduced to 60 days.
In cases where there is abuse or domestic violence, the courts can order an expedited hearing to start the process and remove a spouse and children from the abuser as soon as possible. The waiting period can be waived for special cases like this.
Uncontested divorce cases take around two to six months, and divorces with minor children take about a year. The process can take even longer when spouses don't agree on matters or want to fight each other month after month.
If You Are Nervous: Lawyer Up
If the forms (see sample forms for divorce with no children) and process are overwhelming, or you suspect your ex will not make the divorce amicable, then an attorney is the right choice to stand by your side.
The costs can be intimidating, but that should not stop you from getting the divorce and settlement terms you want. Many firms offer payment plans, and attorneys understand the process is long, expensive, and draining for individuals.
You can start off with a free consultation about divorce court and what to expect in the process. From there, you can decide to put an attorney on retainer or file for divorce on your own. The choice is always yours, and legal professionals are there to help when you need it.
Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney
Contact a qualified attorney.