Tennessee Divorce Basics

Learn the basics of a divorce, or dissolution of marriage, in Tennessee.

A spouse in Tennessee can file for divorce based on either fault or no-fault grounds.

Grounds for Divorce

A spouse in Tennessee can file for divorce based on either fault or no-fault grounds. No-fault grounds include irreconcilable differences, or separation without cohabitation for at least two years, as long as there are no children involved. Fault grounds include: bigamy, adultery, willful desertion of at least one year, felony conviction, cruelty, and abandonment.

Residency Requirement and Waiting Period

A person who has lived in the state for at least six months may file for divorce in Tennessee. If the spouse who wishes to file for divorce lives outside of Tennessee but the other spouse is still a resident, then the non-resident spouse can file for divorce in Tennessee as long as the grounds for the divorce also occurred out of state.

There is a mandatory waiting period of 60 days for parties without children and 90 days for parties with children—the divorce can’t be finalized before that time has passed. The waiting period begins on the day that the petition for divorce is filed.

Property Division

Upon divorce, marital property is equitably divided between the two spouses, regardless of whose name is on the title. In order to determine what is equitable, the court will consider the length of the marriage; both spouses’ age, health, skills, financial needs and resources; each spouse’s contribution to the education, training, or earning capacity of the other; the value of each spouse’s separate property; and the economic circumstances of both spouses.


One spouse may ask the court for a lump-sum payment or periodic payments of support from the other spouse. When the marriage was long-term, the alimony order usually provides for an end to alimony if the supported spouse gets remarried or if either spouse dies, but in a shorter marriage, the court may order a shorter term for alimony, to help the supported spouse pursue education or training to become self-supporting.

Tennessee also recognizes transitional alimony, payments intended to help the supported spouse adjust to the economic consequences of a divorce. Some forms of alimony may be terminated if the supported spouse lives with a third party, even if they remain unmarried.

Child Support

Tennessee courts make basic child support calculations based on a state child support schedule. This chart provides guideline support amounts based on the parents’ monthly combined gross incomes and the number of children needing support. The income used is an adjusted amount, which means that the parents can deduct certain things from their net income first, like taxes and the child’s health care expenses.

In Tennessee, once there is an order for child support, there is an automatic order for assignment of wages. This means that child support is automatically deducted from the parent’s paycheck and paid to the other parent. The website for Tennessee’s Department of Human Services provides a child support calculator and other information on the guidelines, and can be found  here.

Child Custody

Like many other states, Tennessee follows the best interests of the child standard when determining custody. If the parents cannot agree to the custody and care of the child, then the court will step in and assist them in creating a parenting plan. The court would consider the stability of the parents and the child’s environment, the child’s relationship with each parent and in some cases, the child’s preference.

Every final decree of divorce that involves minor children must include a permanent parenting plan. The parenting plan will designate each parent’s responsibilities and authority, as well as a residential schedule for the child through the entire year.

A parent who intends to relocate must give notice to the other parent regarding the intent to move. If the move would change the visitation or custody arrangement, the parents must agree to the changes or the moving parent must ask the court for modification of the original order. If the parents have equal time with the child, then the non-relocating parent can ask the court to prevent the child from moving. The court does not presume in favor of or against the relocation; it will determine whether the modification in custody or visitation arrangement is in the best interests of the child.

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