First Steps in a Divorce Proceeding
If you have made the difficult decision to get a divorce, either you file for divorce or your spouse files or you agree on all issues and file a divorce with all of the settlement papers included. If your spouse files, then you will either accept service or get served a copy of the pleadings.
The first step in dealing with a divorce is hiring a good divorce lawyer. It is likely that there will be complications in any divorce and having professional support is important for everybody who wants to navigate the process. A divorce in Tennessee can only end in two ways, a settlement or a trial. A good divorce lawyer can help you get through the first with their skill at negotiation, and they can get you through the second with their legal acumen.
- If your spouse files first, then after you are served, your divorce attorney will in most cases file a responsive pleading that is called an “Answer” and typically a counter-complaint for divorce on your behalf. This pleading will be addressing all of the allegations in the complaint and request any relief that you are seeking. It will be served on your spouse and they will be required to file a response to the counter-complaint.
- If you file for divorce first, then the next step is to get your soon-to-be-ex “served.” “Service” means physically handing your spouse the initial divorce pleadings. In order to initiate the divorce, a summons is issued by the court when your divorce is filed and the filing fees are paid. There are several choices for serving your spouse which include having the sheriff serve the papers, hire a private process server or asking if either your spouse or spouse’s attorney will accept service. Your attorney will work with you to determine the best way to achieve service based on your circumstances.
What If You Can’t Find Your Spouse?
No worries. We simply file a Motion for Service by Publication. In that Motion, we document our efforts to locate them and say we could not. We set it for a quick hearing. If the court believes we have done everything possible, the Judge will sign an Order for Publication. This allows us to file a Notice that you have filed for divorce in the local paper. After thirty days, we can move forward with your divorce.
Once your spouse is served, they have 30 days to file a responsive pleading. If they fail to file a response after personal service, you can file Motion for Default and proceed with the divorce.
What Comes Next
The divorce will then need to be resolved either through either a settlement or a trial. Your divorce lawyer will be able to advise you about proper behavior while the divorce is proceeding, and this advice will be very important because your behavior during a divorce can have a significant impact on the proceedings.
A settlement is quicker, easier, and cheaper than a full trial, and most divorces do end with one. A settlement is essentially a negotiated agreement between the two parties that determines their rights and obligations after the divorce. It will handle the division of shared property, any required or restricted actions, and obligations towards any children. This can include things that a judge cannot impose during a trial, which means that a settlement will usually make everybody happier than a trial.
Uncontested vs. Contested Divorce
Many people who have an uncontested divorce want to know if they can “share” an attorney with their spouse. An attorney cannot ethically represent both sides to a lawsuit. However, it is not necessary that each party has an attorney. The way this typically works out is if one spouse will take the lead on bringing the agreement to the lawyer, who will then draw up the necessary paperwork, have the first spouse sign it, and then bring the other spouse in to review and sign it. The couple can meet separately or together with the lawyer to go over the details, but the lawyer can only give legal advice to the spouse who hired the lawyer. If a couple agrees on all the terms, an uncontested divorce can be done in a fast, inexpensive way with quality results.
However, if you and your spouse do not agree (contested) on all the terms, your divorce lawyer will take the lead during the settlement negotiations. They will do everything that they can to make sure that you get a fair deal. A divorce attorney will be familiar with negotiating strategies and past divorce cases, which makes them better equipped to handle the negotiations than most other individuals. They will also be free of any emotional attachment to the case, which will help to keep their head clear and keep the negotiations going smoothly.
A trial will only follow if the two parties cannot reach an acceptable settlement. Your divorce lawyer will represent you in this trial and do all that they can to make sure that the judge rules in your favor. An individual is entitled to represent himself in court, but a lawyer’s skill and experience can make all of the difference in a trial.
How Much Will It Cost
The question we always get asked is how much will a divorce cost and it is the question that is the most difficult to answer. At Held Law Firm, a divorce could cost as little as $1,800, or, if we go all the way through a trial, it could cost $50,000 or more. It could take as little as 60 days or as long as years. It all depends on your goals, how those goals are supported by the facts of the case and the law, whether you and your spouse can agree on anything, how angry people are, and what Judge is assigned your case. The initial case assessment is used to discuss these details and provide you with as accurate an assessment as possible of what your case will cost.
No matter how your divorce proceeds, a divorce lawyer can help you avoid legal pitfalls and make sure that negotiations work out in your favor. A divorce is a confusing and stressful time, and nothing is more useful than having a professional supporting you through it. Find a divorce lawyer to help you before you do anything else after you receive divorce papers to make sure that you don’t make any early mistakes that you will live to regret in the future.
Please call Held Law Firm at 865-637-6550 if you need a good divorce lawyer, we will be happy to help.