What Happens First If I'm Considering Divorce?

Once you have made the decision to consider divorce, your next step should be a call to The Landers Firm, PLC. What can you expect once you have arranged to meet with our lawyers?

A. Consultation

First, we meet with you and talk through your circumstances. We learn about your life and your family in a general way, including your financial circumstances. This lets us understand the nature of your case, and it lets you get a feel for us as well. We pride ourselves on providing detailed information in these sessions, and we welcome any questions you may bring with you.

B. Commitment

Next, if you decide to employ us, we will have you review and sign an employment agreement with us. This employment agreement not only lays out each of our responsibilities, but it identifies the retainer we will require to begin work on your case.

C. Posting A Retainer

Retainers vary dramatically depending on what is involved in your case. The funds are deposited into a "savings" account of sorts, and the Board of Professional Responsibility removes the interest monthly and uses those funds to monitor the conduct of lawyers in Tennessee. A debit will be made to your retainer fund each month to pay your bill owed to us that month. We never charge nonrefundable retainers as some domestic law offices do. The amount of the retainer will be specifically discussed in our consultation.

D. Determining Your Grounds For Divorce

Tennessee is a "grounds" state, and that means that no divorce is granted — even those that have been settled — without "grounds" for divorce. While there are numerous and varied grounds for divorce, the following are the most commonly used:

  • Irreconcilable differences. This ground is used solely in the case of a fully resolved divorce where both parties have drafted, approved, and executed a Marital Dissolution Agreement and, in cases involving minor children, a Permanent Parenting Plan. If the parties have not reduced all of their issues to a written, signed settlement agreement, then this ground is not available to them.
  • Inappropriate marital conduct. This ground sounds much worse than it typically is. While it may mean things such as a name-calling, absenteeism, or violence, it typically means general disagreements, and it is used as a bottom level ground when "irreconcilable differences" is not available.
  • Adultery. This ground is what is used when one partner has not been romantically faithful to the other partner. It is typically proven circumstantially (showing "motive" and "opportunity" through the use of credit card, banking, and cellphone records) or it may be proved through the use of direct evidence, such as detective reports or the testimony of others with direct knowledge of the adulterous relationship.
  • Habitual use of drugs or alcohol. This ground is used when substance abuse has caused the demise of the marital relationship.

E. Initial Pleadings

Once the retainer has been posted and the employment agreement signed, we will then determine together what the next step will be and when it will be taken. Typically the next step is to file a "Complaint for Divorce." Sometimes we will attempt to work out a settlement with your spouse before filing a "Complaint for Divorce." However, there may be important reasons to pause before filing anything, such as allowing time for detectives to do their work or to allow us to accumulate additional financial documents. However, if your spouse has already filed a "Complaint for Divorce," then typically it is time to promptly file an "Answer to Complaint for Divorce" or an "Answer and Counter-Complaint for Divorce."

Your case will land in 1 of 9 Circuit Courts or 1 of 3 Chancery Courts. We do not get to select which court hears your case. The selection is made by a computer in the court clerk's office, and your case will remain in the same courtroom unless your jurist dies, retires, or has a legal conflict of interest with one of the parties or lawyers.

F. Service Of Process

Our process servers are professionals in their own right, and we work with them to serve necessary papers on your spouse and other witnesses or entities as promptly, efficiently, and inexpensively as possible. Typically, once we are ready to serve a document on your spouse, we will ask our process servers to make one attempt at "polite" service of the papers by offering to meet your spouse at a time and location convenient to them. If your spouse responds appropriately, then process can occur away from their office or home. However, if your spouse does not respond appropriately, our process servers will do what they need to do to get the job accomplished.

Call our office at 901-522-1010 or send us your contact information to schedule your meeting with our lawyers.