Table of Contents:
- How to File for Divorce in Virginia Without a Lawyer
- How to File for a Divorce in Tennessee Without an Attorney
Filing for divorce in Virginia is a relatively straightforward process. Either you or your spouse must have lived in the state for six months prior to filing. You can file on no-fault grounds if you have lived apart for a year, or after only six months if you have a signed separation agreement and no children. Virginia also offers fault grounds for adultery, cruelty and desertion.
Write a Bill of Complaint
Download a form for a bill of complaint from a reputable website that offers Virginia legal forms. Several state agencies also have forms that you can print out from their websites. Just fill in the blanks. The exact form you choose will depend on your grounds: whether you’re filing after a six-month separation, a one-year separation or on fault grounds. Virginia has different forms for each.
Complete the caption of the form. If you are the one filing for divorce, you are the plaintiff and your spouse is the defendant. Give your spouse’s complete name and address, but leave the case number blank. The court will assign a number when you file the complaint.
Fill in the rest of the form, telling the court the details of your marriage, such as when and where it occurred. Specify the ground you’re using to file for divorce. If you have a signed separation agreement and you're filing after six months’ separation, check the box indicating this. Otherwise, at the end of the complaint, write in how you would like the court to rule on the issues between you and your spouse, such as the division of property, custody and support of any children, and payment of marital debts.
File Your Complaint
Sign your complaint and take it to the district courthouse in either the county where you and your spouse lived together or where your spouse currently lives. If he has left the state, you can also file in the county where you live. When the clerk stamps your complaint as received, you have officially begun your divorce process.
You don't have to serve your spouse with your bill of complaint in Virginia, although this is a common step in most other states. After you file your complaint, the clerk will forward a copy of it, along with a summons, to the sheriff in your spouse’s jurisdiction. The sheriff will serve her. She has 21 days to answer your complaint by filing a responsive document with the court, or she can do nothing and default. Your case will then go directly to hearing, where either a commissioner or judge will grant your divorce. If she does answer your complaint, the court will instruct you regarding all the next steps and court appearances that are required so you marriage can be resolved.
To get a divorce in Tennessee you must file the appropriate paperwork with your county's clerk of court, notify your spouse, then attend a court hearing, when necessary. Divorce may take as little as two months if you have no minor children. If your spouse challenges your request for divorce, it can drag on for much longer.
Paperwork and Fees
You can download the paperwork from the state court website or pick it up from the county courthouse. The basic papers to begin a divorce proceeding include:
- Civil Case Cover Sheet
- Complaint for Divorce requesting the court to end your marriage
- Summons notifying your spouse you want a divorce
- Divorce Certificate
- Temporary Parenting Plan if you have minor children
Depending on your situation, you may need to file more than a dozen forms with the court.
If you serve a summons, but your spouse fails to respond in the required time period, you can ask the court for a default judgment granting your divorce.
Filing fees normally run around $250 in Tennessee. That includes the fee to have the summons and a copy of the complaint delivered to your spouse. If you can't afford the fee, you can file an affidavit of indigency asking the court to defer payment.
If you need help, turn to online legal references or free legal aid groups to identify the papers you need and to help you fill them out correctly. Court staff can't do it for you.
If you have children, you and your spouse have to attend a parenting education seminar within 30 days of filing. You don't have to attend together. These classes instruct you and your spouse in how to deal with your kids and each other, during and after the divorce. After four hours of classes, you can submit a certificate of attendance to the court.
If you or your spouse don't attend the seminar, the judge can't deny you a divorce, but she can take your nonattendance into account when making decisions about child custody.
Going to Court
In Tennessee, an uncontested divorce is one based on "irreconcilable differences" - the marriage just isn't working out. Any other grounds - adultery, drug addiction, bigamy, desertion - is a contested divorce.
In an uncontested divorce, if you and your spouse agree on financial issues, such as alimony and division of property, you can file a Marital Dissolution Agreement with your divorce paperwork. If the judge approves the terms, the hearing should be simple and quick. Some Tennessee counties don't even require you to attend the hearing, but they're the exception. In a contested divorce, when spouses don't agree on the issues, a trial will be held and the judge will set the terms of the divorce based on what's legal and fair to both parties.
If you file for any reason besides irreconcilable differences, you have to show up in court and bring a witness to testify that whatever grounds for divorce you give in the complaint are valid. Your spouse has the right to dispute your claims, cross-examine your witnesses and bring in his own. In some contested cases, this has dragged the divorce out for more than a year.
It's a good idea for both spouses to show up in court even in an uncontested divorce. If the judge doesn't approve the terms of the dissolution agreement or the parenting plan, it'll be easier to make changes quickly if you're both in attendance.