Many of Tennessee’s 95 counties have both Circuit Courts and Chancery Courts. They work together with overlapping jurisdiction. Criminal matters are taken to Circuit Courts and Chancery Courts handle civil matters. Tennessee is split into 31 judicial districts. Some of these have also created Probate Courts and Criminal Courts to handle those types of cases.
Tennessee’s Chancery Courts are limited jurisdiction courts, and they are based on the Olde English judicial system where a chancellor acted as a “King’s conscience.” In the present day, judges in Chancery Court are no longer referred to as chancellors but judges. They have some leeway in applying legal rules and adapting relief for individual case circumstances. Judges serve eight-year terms and are elected into office.
The types of cases resolved by Chancery Courts are real property cases of $50 or more, tort cases, contract disputes, probate and estate matters, civil appeals from lower courts, domestic relations cases, divorces, injunctions, name changes, adoptions, and workers’ compensation claims. Many types of cases may be heard in either Circuit or Chancery Courts.
Many of the types of cases in Chancery Courts apply to self-represented litigants, and the Tennessee State Courts website has resources that cater to that demographic. They supply forms for filing cases, guides, and publications to help steer patrons through the court system and other legal resources and assistance.
For the last year calculated, Chancery Courts saw 57,701 new cases. The most significant number of cases (12,699) were probate cases, 9,667 were for parenting/child support issues, 8,536 were for divorces where there were no children, 6,618 were for divorces with children, 2,763 was for domestic protection orders, 2,576 were for adoptions, 2,578 were guardianship orders, 2,066 were for contract disputes, 1,643 were real estate cases and the rest were for small legal matters.