In the state of Tennessee to dissolve a marriage without the other parties consent requires that you have grounds to divorce. Certain states have true no-fault divorces that don’t require one party to prove grounds. Grounds are a reason recognized by the state of Tennessee that they will allow you to get a divorce for. They range from adultery, abandonment, to a catchall inappropriate marital conduct that can include a variety of behaviors that it is “inappropriate” for one married person to do to another. Tennessee code section 36-4-101 sets out the fifteen grounds. Among those ground is one called “irreconcilable differences”.
As a lawyer who does divorces in Memphis this is what about half your clients will want when the call you. Some lawyers here advertise they can do one for $225 plus court costs in the Memphis Commercial Appeal! The problem is this really isn’t a ground for divorce under Tennessee law.
You see in Tennessee to get a divorce for irreconcilable difference you must have a signed and notarized Marital Dissolution Agreement that sets forth how all the property will be divided and who gets what. If you have children then you also need a completed parenting plan where you agree on all details, a child support worksheet based on that plan, and to take a parenting class.
All of the above will need to be signed notarized and approved by your ex-spouse. You cannot force your ex-spouse to sign the above. There is no legal penalty for failing to do so. There is also no way to default on these grounds. So if your spouse has taken off for the last two years with her lesbian lover to Nepal then you can’t get an irreconcilable differences divorce. Now if all the above is done then you can get divorced in 60 days from filing without children or 90 days with.
Now if you come to me and pay me to do the paperwork for an irreconcilable difference divorce and your spouse isn’t prepared for having the papers presented to them numerous things can and frequently do happen.
- Your spouse may sue you for divorce.
- Your spouse may remove all the money from any joint checking accounts, tell her relatives you are threatening him/her, and get an order of protection against you.
- Take the kids and move to Florida.
All of which because an irreconcilable differences divorce has no mutual mandatory injunction are very hard to combat. They also cause your lawyer to instead of doing a little cutting and pasting, counseling you for a half hour, answering a few questions, filing, and one short flexible court appearance to spending hours upon hours in multiple court appearances, frantic calls from you, and filing numerous documents to get you back in your house or the kids back from Florida.
Your lawyer is also going to want a lot more money than $225. Frequently lawyers advertise irreconcilable differences divorces for low amounts and then refuse to perform any work unless you pay them say an additional $2000 retainers which will only cover the most moderately contested divorce.
Most lawyers can crank out an irreconcilable difference divorce in about two hours of work. A lightly contested divorce can consume twenty hours of time in mediation and initial court appearances. That’s at one hundred and fifty or so dollars an hour. Going to trial can take hundreds of hours.
So what happens if you get a lawyer to begin work on an irreconcilable differences basis when you shouldn’t have? Well, you’re not going to have a lawyer for very long. They probably state in their contract they will perform no additional work and might not even have filed yet. In addition, they will be really ticked at you for underplaying the situation and will probably not be prepared to deal with whatever you spouse throws at you.
There are several morals to this. One, be prepared to be generous. Its going to cost you several thousand dollars to tens of thousands to seriously contest any issues using a Memphis lawyer. Second, be honest with your lawyer if you want your spouse out of the house or its going to take some serious effort to come to an agreement with your spouse. Third, remember you can’t get an irreconcilable difference divorce in Tennessee without AGREEING WITH YOUR SPOUSE ON ALL MATERIAL ISSUES.