What are the Grounds for Divorce in Tennessee?
When filing for divorce in Tennessee, you must identify the reasons why you want to end your marriage, or the "grounds" for your divorce. Tennessee allows couples to file for divorce based upon fault or no-fault grounds. No-fault divorces are generally faster than fault-based divorces and are often less stressful for the spouses involved, but there are some requirements you must meet before you can obtain a no-fault divorce in Tennessee.
No-Fault Divorce in Tennessee
A "no-fault" divorce filing means that you don’t need to identify a specific reason for your divorce or blame your spouse for the divorce. Instead, you can cite “irreconcilable differences,” which means that you and your spouse do not get along anymore and that the marriage cannot be saved. Typically, divorces based upon irreconcilable differences are faster and less traumatic for family members, especially when children are involved.
In Tennessee, a divorce may be awarded on the basis of irreconcilable differences if the spouses both agree in writing to an equitable (fair) settlement of property, alimony, and child custody and support (if children are involved). If the spouses cannot reach an agreement based on irreconcilable differences, then one spouse must prove one of the fault grounds, or the spouses must both agree in writing to one of the fault grounds.
Fault Divorce in Tennessee
In a “fault” divorce, you need to provide a specific reason for the divorce and prove that your spouse’s bad conduct caused the divorce. Fault grounds in Tennessee include:
- abandonment without cause (your spouse left you and has not resided in the home for at least two years)
- cruelty, including domestic violence
- wife was pregnant at time of marriage, by another person and without husband’s knowledge
- impotence since the time of the marriage
- bigamy (your spouse married you without divorcing his or her first spouse), and
- imprisonment for two or more years.
For the basic forms you'll need to file and steps you'll need to take to start the divorce process in Tennessee, see Filing for Divorce in Tennessee.
How Does Fault Impact a Divorce?
In Tennessee, courts divide property equitably (fairly) and do not consider either spouse’s fault when dividing property. Instead, Tennessee courts consider the following factors when dividing property, which include:
- length of marriage
- value of property awarded to each spouse
- contribution of each spouse to acquisition of marital property, and
- economic needs and circumstances of each spouse.
Although Tennessee courts don’t consider either spouse’s fault when dividing property, marital misconduct is often a factor in awarding alimony. For example, if the spouse asking for alimony engaged in an adulterous affair, a judge could lower the alimony award or reject it outright. And if the spouse who might pay alimony cheated, the judge can increase the amount of alimony.
How Long Does it Take to Obtain a No-Fault Divorce in Tennessee?
Before a divorce may be awarded on any ground (fault or no-fault), a complaint for divorce must have been on file with the Tennessee court for at least 60 days if the spouses do not have a child under age 18, or 90 days if the spouses do have a child under age 18.
For more specific information regarding obtaining a divorce based upon irreconcilable differences in Tennessee, please contact a local family law attorney for help.
For a complete list of the fault grounds for divorce, and the law governing irreconcilable differences in Tennessee, see T.C.A. § 36-4-101 through 103.