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Divorce In Tennessee

Hearing the words, “I want a divorce,” can be one of the most difficult messages to receive from a spouse. When the decision has been reached to end the marriage, moving forward with the necessary legal steps can be overwhelming. Whether you asked for the divorce or the choice was mutual, proper planning can help in preparing for the future.

Tennessee Divorce Laws 2015

  • ADR Available: Yes
  • Fault or No Fault: Both
  • Parenting Plan Required: Yes
  • Property Distribution: Equitable

Grounds For Divorce

In Tennessee, couples can file for either a fault or no-fault divorce. For a no-fault divorce, it is not necessary to prove a spouse’s behavior is the reason for the end of the marriage. However one of two conditions must be met – mutual agreement of irreconcilable differences or the couple must have been living separately for two years and have no children. A couple must not be cohabitating or the motion could be dismissed.

A fault divorce requires that proof is given to the court and must be in relation to the following grounds:

  • Adultery
  • Cruel treatment
  • Impotence at the time of the marriage
  • Bigamy
  • Habitual drunkenness
  • Felony conviction
  • Desertion for one year
  • Conviction of an infamous crime
  • Attempt to murder one’s spouse
  • The wife was pregnant with another man’s child at the time of the marriage
  • Refusal to move to Tennessee and live with your spouse

The Different Divorce Types In Tennessee

The person that files for the divorce is called the petitioner and the other spouse is called the respondent. The length of time it takes to end a marriage will depend on the divorce type. The two types of divorce in Tennessee are:

  • In an uncontested divorce, the petitioner and the respondent are in agreement and have reached a conclusion in all issues relating to the divorce. There are many advantages to an uncontested divorce such as, saving time and money. Furthermore, an uncontested divorce can be less emotionally exhausting than a contested proceeding.
  • When a divorce is contested, the process can turn grueling as spouses fight over particular issues. There are certain steps that couples of contested divorce will go through that uncontested spouses may not have to deal with, including interrogatories, depositions, trial preparation and trial.

Divorce Waiting Period

In the state of Tennessee, if there are minor children, there is a 90-day waiting period after the divorce is filed for the court to address the motion. If spouses have no children, the waiting period is 60 days. Filers must be a resident of the state of Tennessee for at least six months.

Are You Facing Divorce?

See what you can do to Protect What’s Yours. Get in contact with a local divorce attorney today. We serve clients throughout the state including but not limited to the Nashville, Knoxville, Memphis and Chattanooga metropolitan areas.

Military Divorce In Tennessee

Ending a marriage with someone in the military can be a complicated process. This is because there are certain federal laws that govern military members and affect the procedure of a divorce. Under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), a military member is protected from being divorced without notice while on active duty or deployed. The law states that a divorce can be put on hold for the entire time of active duty or deployment.

There are other federal laws that may affect the way in which a divorce is carried out. For instance, the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act (USFSA) is a law that dictates how property is divided in a military divorce. It’s recommended to seek the skills of an experienced divorce attorney with knowledge of pertinent military laws.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) In Tennessee

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is a way for couples to sort through the issues of a divorce in a somewhat informal environment. The process uses a neutral third party and allows spouses to arrive at agreements through discussions and negotiations with one another. ADR can be legally binding and also nonbinding. Some of the benefits to using ADR include:

  • Cost effective
  • Saves time
  • Exploration of many options and solutions
  • Preserves relationships with spouses
  • Shows children a good model to solve problems
  • Allows each spouse the time to explain his or her viewpoint
  • More control over the outcome

When couples are free to arrive at the agreements that mutually work for them, they are more likely to abide by the final arrangements.

Common Alternatives To Divorce

The decision to end a marriage can bring with it a great deal of unanswered questions. Many couples may wonder what path is right for them in order to move forward with life. In Tennessee, there are alternatives to divorce such as legal separation or annulment. Knowing the benefits to each can help spouses arrive at the right conclusion for their situation.

Legal Separation

While it might be common for many to believe a legal separation is exactly like a divorce, it is not. Although the issues regarding child custody, visitation and support are addressed and resolved, the marriage is not terminated like in a divorce. Couples that choose a legal separation may do so for financial, religious or personal reasons.

Pursuing a legal separation can take as much time and money as a divorce; however, it can give couples time to reconcile the marriage. If a couple wants to eventually move on and marry someone else, they must first take further steps to end the partnership.


In an annulment, the court treats the marriage as though it never legally happened. In some instances, the marriage was never legal from the start – as in cases involving bigamy or incest. In order to grant an annulled marriage, the court requires evidence to show that specific conditions exist. The specific factors to obtain an annulment in Tennessee are:

  • Bigamy
  • Incest
  • Fraud
  • Underage
  • Lacking mental ability
  • Force
  • Same sex

In a marriage that gets annulled, this action doesn’t interfere with the legitimacy of the children. This means that child custody and support will be determined for the children regardless of whether the marriage is annulled. Proving to the court that an annulment is warranted can be difficult in some instances and often requires the help of a skilled divorce attorney.

Tennessee Child Custody

Child Custody Determinations

When spouses decide to get a divorce, they often think first and foremost about the impact the decision will have on the children. Child custody and support are two key areas that need to be resolved when a marriage is over. In Tennessee, the most common custody arrangement is one in which both parents share equally in the caregiving roles of the children.

Tennessee has four child custody outcomes:

  • Joint legal custody. This type of custody allows both parents to share in the educational, religious and medical choices concerning the children.
  • Sole legal custody. Only one parent can be the decision maker on important life decisions of the children in sole legal custody.
  • Joint physical custody. This type of custody refers to where the children live. In this arrangement, children live between the households of each parent. In many cases, the parenting time works on a schedule in order to create normalcy and stability for the children.
  • Sole physical custody. This custody outcome entitles one parent to have overnight visits, while the other caregiver may have visitation.


Parenting time, or visitation, is typically granted to the noncustodial spouse. The arrangements can be based upon what works for the spouses and whatever is agreed to by the court. In cases where the relationship has significantly deteriorated between the parents, a flexible visitation schedule is not recommended, as this arrangement requires good communication.

Grandparents’ Rights

A divorce can alter or even halt the time grandparents can visit with their grandchildren.  In some circumstances, the family dynamics can be complicated, making it necessary for grandparents to petition the court to have visits with their grandchildren. The court will access if grandparents have a relationship with the grandchildren that could be defined as significant and meaningful. Additionally, it is necessary that the visitation is deemed to be in the best interests of the grandchildren.

Child Support In Tennessee

In Tennessee, child support is determined through a basic formula that uses the adjusted gross incomes of both parents and the number of children in the household. Income that is factored into the calculation can be from a variety of sources including:

  • Wages, tips and commissions
  • Gifts and an inheritance
  • Pensions, social security benefits and capital gains
  • Alimony from a previous marriage

Health care expenses and other child-related costs are the responsibility of both parents. When parents are awarded an even amount of parenting time, child support payments are generally paid to the spouse that makes less money. Other factors may be considered as well, such as the debt of each parent.

Child Support Enforcement

Once child support has been determined and a judge has made the official ruling, parents that are obligated to make payments will face severe consequences for delinquency. When a parent falls behind on child support or stops payments altogether, he or she may be subject to the following:

  • Income withholding
  • Credit reporting
  • Intercepting tax refunds
  • Suspending a driver’s or professional license
  • A levy against bank accounts
  • A lien on property
  • Jail

Failure to pay child support will result in a contempt petition being filed against the non-paying party. This motion could eventually result in jail for those with high outstanding balances or for repeat offenders.


Establishing paternity is vital in order for a father to be in the lives of his children.  Once paternity has been determined, a number of important factors are made possible. Some of the aspects a father acquires in regard to his children include:

  • Can pursue legal action for custody or visitation
  • Playing a role in making important life decisions for the children
  • Becoming a role model for children
  • Offering financial and emotional support
  • Participating in the lives of the children

Marital Assets And Debts In A Tennessee Divorce

Allocating property between two spouses can become a challenging process. When a couple has accumulated property together, there can be emotional ties to an item, and seeing it go to the other spouse can be hard. In Tennessee, all debts and assets acquired in the marriage belong to both parties. There are, however, some exceptions to this rule, including:

  • If property is protected under a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement
  • If the property was owned prior to the marriage
  • If the property was a gift given to just one spouse or an inheritance

Division Of Property

Tennessee is considered an equitable property division state. The court will start with classifying property, which includes debts, into two categories – separate and marital. Separate property is anything that was owned by a spouse before the marriage, and therefore not divided in a divorce.

In equitable division, property is dispersed according to the needs of each spouse, rather than in an even fashion. This means that one spouse could be awarded 70 percent of the property and the other could receive 30 percent. Some of the other points the court may consider when awarding property may include:

  • The length of the marriage
  • The age, physical and mental health of each spouse
  • The employability of each spouse
  • The contribution of one spouse to the other person’s earning power
  • The value of separate property owned by each spouse
  • Social security benefits


Alimony is a way to offer financial assistance to a spouse after the marriage ends. There are many circumstances which could warrant the need for spousal support. In Tennessee, there are four types of alimony including:

  • Alimony in future. This type of alimony is considered long-term support. It is set up and dispersed on regular intervals and continues until death or the remarriage of the beneficiary spouse.
  • Alimony in solido. This alimony is often paid off in a lump sum or given for a predetermined time period.
  • Rehabilitative alimony. When a spouse needs retraining and preparation to be self-sufficient in the workplace, rehabilitative alimony may be awarded.
  • Transitional alimony. In this non-modifiable type, a spouse may need a little time to acclimate to the financial strains of running a household without the benefit of the other person.

The court will use many points to assess whether alimony will be granted, such as marital conduct and the earning potential of each spouse.

Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements

Contrary to the popular stereotype, a prenuptial agreement is not just for couples with a tremendous amount of revenue and property. Any couple, regardless of collective wealth, may have enacted a prenuptial and postnuptial agreement. These contracts protect one or both spouses in the event of a divorce. The main difference between them is that a prenuptial agreement is constructed before the marriage whereas a postnuptial contract is made after being formally joined as husband and wife.

Some of the benefits to a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement include:

  • Protecting intended beneficiaries of property
  • Being shielded from taking on the debt a spouse acquires
  • Safeguarding a family business
  • Maintaining a sense of comfort and confidence over property matters

Post-Divorce Modifications

Once a divorce is final and agreements have been reached on all issues, a drastic life event could make it imperative to modify previous contracts. Certain circumstances, such as a demotion or loss of a job, can greatly impact the ability to honor financial commitments. The need for other post-divorce modifications may be due to a serious injury, a job relocation or filing for bankruptcy.

In Tennessee, it is generally the requirement of the court to provide evidence that income has changed by 15 percent in order to have the chance to amend child support payments.

Important Note
Please be aware that the information on this page is provided for illustration purposes only and it does not constitute legal advice. If you would like more information about the divorce laws in Tennessee or the process of filing for divorce, connect with an experienced local attorney today by filling out the contact form. We make it easy to find and connect with a local divorce attorney. It’s Free and Safe!
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