Law Office of Mark S. Wood
2725 W. John Sevier Hwy.
Knoxville, TN 37920
PH. (865) 609-8200
Any information contained here should not be considered legal advice. Information provided is general in nature, and all fact patterns are potentially different.
You should not rely on the information contained in this website without seeking professional legal advice related to your particular circumstances. The fact that
you have visited this website does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and my firm. Please contact our office if you are interested in
establishing such a relationship.
Law Office of Mark S. Wood
2725 W. John Sevier Hwy.
Knoxville, TN 37920
PH. (865) 609-8200
Scroll down to see our services, but if you are curious to know why we do what we do and how we keep
our prices low, a little background information might help you understand.
Ironically, I did not go to law school to become an attorney. I did not like the reality that attorneys charge
very high fees and that a wealthier client could take advantage of that wealth to sometimes affect the
outcome of a lawsuit. I also did not like the amount of time the practice of law requires because I wanted
to spend more time with my family. So, I went to law school to do environmental law, hoping to work for
a company that needed someone trained in environmental law. Then, after I graduated law school, that
was exactly what I did. My first job out of law school was for the University of Tennessee doing
environmental clean up work for the Air Force. I then was hired by an environmental company in Oak
Ridge (just outside Knoxville) who did work for the Department of Energy. After about 5 years of this, the
big D hit me. My wife Julia had filed for divorce.
Our divorce was horrible. Although I researched much about divorce law to understand more fully what I
was involved in, it was still quite a painful learning experience for me even though I had already graduated
from the University of Tennessee College of Law. Depositions, interrogatories, subpoenas, private
investigators, unexpected attorney bills, multiple hearings, psychologists and other expert witnesses
were all involved, and made for a very stressful time in my life. And my wife's. And my child's.
Communicating with my attorney was difficult, if my attorney was even available. Same with Julia's. And
the costs - the costs were incredible and unpredictable. Julia and I think that we spent about $20,000.00
during that year between the two us for the divorce. But, thank goodness, it was only $20,000, and it
was only 20 grand because we decided to reconcile. I definitely disagreed with the adverserial approach
in divorce matters, as it tends to hurt the family involved. After going through all that, I thought there had
to be a better way.
I therefore decided to sit for the bar, received my license, and started my own practice designed to
reduce the costs of a divorce (and the stress) plus I created a way to communicate clearly what my
clients could expect in terms of costs and the process. I therefore came up with a largely automated
way of developing the necessary documents (I am a self taught computer geek, and made all my own
websites, for example). I then started offering discounted divorces in 1998 - with Julia by my side.
The rest, as they say, is history. We have been told by our local court house we easily file more divorces
annually than any other firm in Knox County, TN. We have been able to achieve this because we care so
much about providing good quality services, keeping your costs low and (almost always) predictable, and
remaining accessible to my clients. We explain all of this to our clients - in writing - so you know what
you are paying for.
Anatomy of a Divorce
I broadly divide divorces into three categories (1) agreed (2) contested and (3) negotiated.
Anatomy of an Agreed Divorce
My firm treats an agreed divorce as one where all aspects of the divorce have been agreed to by the
both parties - before the necessary documents (called pleadings) are drawn up. In other words, the
husband and wife have reached an agreement about each and every aspect of the divorce before hiring
me to do the actual divorce. No service of process is needed (that is, neither party gets served a
summons by the sheriff or other individual). The papers are therefore drawn up - based upon the
parties' agreement - and simply given to the other spouse for his/her review and signatures. After your
spouse signs the paperwork, it is filed with the court and sets at the court house until the legally
mandatory waiting period is over. The waiting period is 60 days for people with no minor children and
90 days for those who have children. After the waiting period is over, a Judge (if the paperwork is filed
in Circuit Court) or Chancellor (if the paperwork is filed in Chancery Court) then reviews the documents,
and if satisfied that all legal requirements have been addressed sufficiently, the Court signs the Final
Decree and makes the divorce final.
When a husband and wife are able to reach an agreement about each aspect of their divorce, each
aspect of their agreement needs to be placed into the necessary documents before filing. This almost
always saves each party a lot of money, time, and heart ache. One party contacts my firm to prepare
the paperwork and we are almost always able to give you the paperwork during the meeting. Your
spouse cannot meet with me and no other attorneys are normally involved.
What are the necessary divorce documents that have to be prepared for an agreed divorce? Agreed
divorce papers includes a complaint for divorce, a marital dissolution agreement and the final decree. If
the parties have children, then a visitation schedule (called a permanent parenting plan) and child
support worksheet are also required. Each of these documents tend to be very technical and must
comply with the requirements of the law. Child support is set by law to reduce arguments about the
amount that is owed.
The short story is that as long as you and your spouse have reached a sufficiently detailed agreement
about each aspect of the divorce, you have an agreed divorce. That means the property settlement
(addressing real estate, debts and all movable property, such as the stuff in the house, cars and
sometimes mobile homes) has been agreed to and who gets what has been agreed to. Alimony and
retirement (if relevant) have also been agreed to. If you have children, then it also means the visitation
arrangement has been agreed to, but, as I mentioned above, child support is set by law, so that will
take care of itself. The Tennessee Department of Human Services has information needed to determine
child support. For more information, please click here.
During our consultation, I will then provide you my opinion of your agreement, considering the law and
practical considerations. This will therefore let you know whether I believe a court might rule differently
if you were to fight it out and lets you know what your rights and obligations are. Thus, you leave the
meeting well informed, knowing what you are doing. I always try to keep your best interest in mind, but
I also try not to interfere with your agreement.
Did you know? No attorney should
represent both parties during a divorce
because there is too great of a chance
that a conflict of interest may occur,
even in an agreed divorce. If a conflict
occurred, the conflict would require the
attorney to withdraw from the case (after
you spent money), and leave each party
without an attorney. That would mean
each of you may have to hire another
attorney for each of you (two attorneys
would therefore be involved). This also
means more money. Usually a lot more
money. Usually thousands of dollars.
Warning: There is hardly anything easy about
the law, so we strongly discourage people from
filing their own divorce, unless their divorce is an
extremely simple divorce. But be aware, even if
you can find divorce forms on the internet, most
are done incorrectly, with bad or no instructions.
Many sellers of those forms, in fact, are
committing a crime (called the unauthorized
practice of law). Click here if you think you have
done business with a company illegally selling
forms and want to report them. Even if the court
clerk accepts those forms, the Judge may reject
them (after you pay the nonrefundable filing fee).
I've known several judges that would reject the
divorce simply because an attorney was not
involved (attorneys make the judge's work
easier). We receive many, many clients every
year who have attempted to file their own divorce
but come to us to correct the papers. This is
usually more expensive than if we had simply
done the divorce for them from the beginning, the
Information I will ask you to bring to the
meeting includes names, residential
addresses, employer's names and
address, income information, types of
debts owed (including account numbers),
social security numbers, the details
about your agreement regarding any real
estate and personal property, places of
birth, dates of birth, and, if you have
children, the visitation agreement, day
care costs and insurance costs for the
I treat a contested divorce as any divorce where one spouse will not or cannot sign the papers. This can
be for any number of reasons, including not knowing how to get a hold of the other spouse so he or she
can sign the papers. The process is very different from an agreed divorce, and the attorney's fees and
other costs reflect the difference (most attorneys I know charge between $150-$400 per hour). For
example, we must attempt to serve the papers to the Defendant in a contested divorce, which also
raises the court costs involved. Also, mediation is required by Tennessee law under most
circumstances. Mediation involves hiring another professional (usually another attorney) to assist the
parties in reaching an agreed divorce and keep the case from going to trial. This part of the lawsuit can
be quite expensive (for example, typically a client pays for his or her attorney to attend mediation, plus
the costs of the mediator), but it prevents many - if not most - contested divorces to making it all the
way to trial. Thus, it routinely results in converting the contested divorce into an agreed divorce, but only
after much time and money has been spent. We would much rather see people reach an agreed divorce
in the first place, to avoid these costs and the pain that contested divorces often entail.
The retainer for a contested divorce is normally between $1500.00 and $2500.00, depending on the
potential complexity of the case, plus court costs (which vary). And this is just to start. Hopefully, you
do not need to be involved in a contested divorce and can find alternatives way to resolve your
differences. We do not offer representation in contested cases statewide.
I treat a negotiated divorce as a divorce where another attorney is involved, but nothing has been filed
with the courthouse. The attorneys and clients then attempt to reach an agreed divorce, before filing,
and, if successful, the divorce papers are drawn up and then filed as an agreed divorce. This type of
divorce can be fairly expensive, time consuming and stressful, but almost always less than a
Another version of a negotiated divorce that appears to be gaining attention is known as a collaborative
divorce. This type of divorce is rising in popularity across the nation, and I strongly support its
objectives of avoiding the horrors of a divorce lawsuit (like I experienced). It is designed from the
forefront to avoid a court battle. As a result, the parties - and their attorneys - all agree that they will
cooperate in the process so the adversarial aspects of a contested divorce are avoided as much as
possible. Further, the parties agree NOT to file for divorce until attempting to reach a cooperative
agreement. The collaborative divorce process is designed to keep the process very humane, private
and, usually, less costly than a contested divorce. It is designed to keep the emotional aspects out of
the process as much as possible so the parties do not spend time blaming each other. Ultimately, it
is designed so the parties can leave the marriage without animosity, which clearly benefits everyone
involved, most importantly any children of the marriage.
Offering Discounted Agreed