How to File Divorce in Tennessee

How to File Divorce in Tennessee

Both Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee are world renowned for their music cultures, and perhaps the most famous musician ever to come from the state was Elvis Presley.  His home in Memphis, Graceland, is still one of the most visited tourist attractions in the country.

Unfortunately, living in the “fishbowl” of that famous house was part of what led to Elvis’ divorce.  If your marriage is headed towards divorce you need to know these laws.

Possibly beginning immediately

A resident of Tennessee can file for divorce immediately if the acts that are causing the divorce happened in the state.  If not, one of the spouses have to be a resident of the state for six months before the divorce can be filed.

Many grounds for divorce

In modern times, most divorces are granted on a “no-fault” basis.  In Tennessee, the primary no-fault ground for divorce is “irreconcilable differences between the parties.”  That just means that for whatever reason the couple no longer wants to stay married.  A court is generally not going to scrutinize how irreconcilable a relationship is. A divorce can also be granted on the basis of a two-year separation.  

If you are so inclined, you can still pursue a “fault” divorce in Tennessee.  That just means that a divorce is granted because one spouse did something wrong.  In the old days, that was the only way to get a divorce.

Fault divorces remain on the books but it really does not make sense to most people to spend time and money proving fault grounds for divorce.  

That said, the fault grounds available include impotence, bigamy, adultery, dissertation, conviction of an infamous crime, attempted murder of a spouse, willful absence, the wife being pregnant by another man, habitual drunkenness, cruel and inhuman conduct, indignities, and neglect.  

Agree to make it easy

Tennessee has a process called an “agreed divorce” that allows couples to get a simple divorce with minimal expense.  

The process is available to couples that do not own real estate and can agree on how they will divide their property and parent their children.  In these cases the judge will merely check on the agreement to make sure the requirements are met and the deal is fair, and then the divorce can be granted.  

Splitting property

If a couple cannot agree on how they will split their property, then the court will do it for them.  The law says the court must first divide up any marital property, and then decide if spousal support should be awarded.

Issues of fault are not supposed to be considered in the division, but the judge can consider almost any other factors.  The law specifically includes the duration of the marriage, the age and health of each spouse, their contributions to the marriage, and their future earning ability.  

Child custody and support

Lastly, a court may address issues related to a couple’s children during a divorce.  The law in Tennessee gives judges “the widest discretion” to award custody in the child’s best interests.  

One spouse will usually be ordered to pay support to the other, according to a formula that considers how much each spouse makes and how much time the child is spending with each parent.

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