Tennessee Divorce Law
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Divorce Residency Essentials to Get Divorce in Tennessee
The spouse seeking divorce must have been a resident of Tennessee when the grounds for divorce arose. If the grounds for divorce arose outside of Tennessee and the petitioner resided outside of Tennessee, either spouse must have been a resident for 6 months prior to filing. The divorce may be filed for in any of the following counties:
- The county in which both spouses lived at the time of their separation;
- The county in which the respondent lives if he or she is a resident of Tennessee; or
- The county in which the petitioner lives if the respondent is a non-resident of Tennessee. [Tennessee Code Annotated; Volume 6A, Title 36, Sections 36-4-104 and 36-4-105].
Reasons for Divorce in Tennessee
There are mainly two reasons of divorce in Tennessee those are fault and general.In order to file for divorce in Tennessee, the proper grounds must be established. Both spouses are involved in establishing these grounds, and both must substantiate and agree upon these, unless the divorcing spouse is trying to prove otherwise to the court.
No-fault grounds for a divorce in Tennesseeinclude:
- Irreconcilable differences if:
- There has been no denial of this ground;
- The spouses submit a properly signed marital dissolution agreement (see below under Simplified or Special Divorce Procedures); or
- This grounds for divorce is combined with a general fault-based grounds or
- Living separate and apart without cohabitation for two years when there are no minor children. [Tennessee Code Annotated; Volume 6A, Title 36, Sections 36-4-101 and 36-4-103].
General reasons fordivorce in Tennesseeinclude:
- Conviction of a felony and imprisonment;
- Alcoholism and/or drug addiction;
- Wife is pregnant by another at the time of marriage without husband’s knowledge;
- Willful desertion for one year;
- Endangering the life of the spouse;
- Conviction of an infamous crime;
- Refusing to move to Tennessee with a spouse and willfully absenting oneself from a new residence for two years;
- Cruel and inhuman treatment or unsafe and improper marital conduct;
- Indignities that make the spouse’s life intolerable; and
- Abandonment, neglect, or banning the spouse from the home. [Tennessee Code Annotated; Volume 6A, Title 36, Section 36-4-101].
Custody of the Children in Tennessee
Joint or sole custody is awarded according to the best interests of the child and considering the child’s preference. There is a presumption that joint custody is in the best interests of the child when the parents have an agreement to that effect or agree in open court to joint custody. There is no presumption that either parent is more suited to obtain custody. Custody will be granted based on the best interests of the child and a consideration of the following:
- The love, affection, and emotional ties between the parents and child;
- The importance of continuity and the length of time the child has lived in a stable and satisfactory environment unless parent disrupted continuity by fleeing domestic violence;
- Whether there has been any domestic violence or physical or mental abuse to the child, spouse, or any other person and whether a parent has had to relocate to avoid such violence;
- The stability of the family unit;
- The mental and physical health of the parents;
- The home, school, and community record of the child;
- The reasonable preference of a child over 12 years of age;
- The character and behavior of any person who lives in or visits the parent’s home and such person’s interactions with the child; and
- Each parent’s past and potential performance of parenting duties, including a willingness and ability to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship with the other parent. [Tennessee Code Annotated; Volume 6A, Title 36, Sections 36-6-101 and 36-6-106].
Property Distribution in Tennessee
Tennessee is an “equitable distribution” state. The separate property of each spouse is retained by that spouse. Separate property is property that was:
- Acquired prior to marriage;
- By gift or inheritance;
- In exchange for any separate property, or
- Obtained from income or appreciation of separate property, if the other spouse did not contribute to the preservation and appreciation.
The court may prefer to award the marital home and goods to the spouse with physical custody. The marital property, including:
- Any property acquired during the marriage by either spouse;
- Any increase in value of any property to which the spouses contributed to the upkeep and appreciation; and
- Any retirement benefits, is divided by the court, without regard to any marital fault, and after a consideration of the following factors:
- The contribution of each spouse to the acquisition, preservation, appreciation, or dissipation of the marital property, including the contribution of each spouse as homemaker, wage-earner, or parent;
- The value of each spouse’s property at the time of the marriage and at present;
- The economic circumstances of each spouse at the time the division of property is to become effective;
- The length of the marriage;
- The age and health of the spouses;
- The vocational skills of the spouses;
- The liabilities and needs of each spouse and the opportunity of each for further acquisition of capital assets and income;
- The federal income tax consequences of the court’s division of the property;
- The present and potential earning capability of each spouse;
- The tangible and intangible contributions made by one spouse to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other spouse;
- The relative ability of each party for the future acquisition of capital and income;
- The employability and earning capacity of the spouses;
- Any social security benefits; and
- Any other factors necessary to do equity and justice between the spouses. [Tennessee Code Annotated; Volume 6A, Title 36, Section 36-4-121].
Tennessee Spousal Support Guidelines
Spousal support may take the form of lump sum, periodic, or rehabilitative support. Tennessee favors rehabilitative support; however, if this is not feasible, the court may grant long-term alimony until the death or remarriage of the supported spouse. Spousal support may be awarded to either spouse, based on a consideration of the following:
- The value of any separate property and the value of the spouse’s share of any marital property;
- Whether the spouse seeking alimony is the custodian of a child whose circumstances make it appropriate for that spouse not to seek outside employment;
- The need for sufficient education and training to enable the spouse to find appropriate employment;
- The standard of living during the marriage;
- The duration of the marriage;
- The comparative financial resources of the spouses, including their comparative earning abilities in the labor market and any retirement, pension, or profit-sharing benefits;
- The needs and obligations of each spouse;
- The tangible and intangible contributions of each spouse to the marriage, including services rendered in homemaking, childcare, and contributions to the education, earning capacity, and career-building of the other spouse;
- The relative education and training of the spouses and the opportunity of each party to secure education and training;
- The age of the spouses;
- The physical and mental condition of the spouse;
- The tax consequences to each spouse;
- The vocational skills and employability of the spouse seeking alimony;
- The conduct of the spouses during the marriage; and
- Any other factor the court deems just and equitable.
The court may require that spousal support payments be made through the clerk of the court. Spousal support payments may include expenses of job training and education. [Tennessee Code Annotated; Volume 6A, Title 36, Section 36-5-101].
Tennessee Child Support Guidelines
Either or both of the parents may be ordered to provide child support. The court may require that health insurance coverage be provided for the child or that the spouse to who is to pay the support maintain a life insurance policy for the benefit of the child. The court can require that the child support payments be paid through the clerk of the court. The posting of bond, wage assignments, and wage withholding may also be ordered. There are official child support guidelines in the Rules of Tennessee Dept. of Human Services, Child Support Division, Chapter 1240-2-4 which are presumed to be correct unless there is a showing that the amount would be unjust or inappropriate under the particular circumstances of the case. Standardized forms for determining child support are also available. [Tennessee Code Annotated; Volume 6A, Title 36, Sections 36-5-101 and 36-5-501 and Tennessee Court Rules Annotated, Supreme Court Rules; Tennessee Uniform Administrative Rules Act, Title 4, Chapter 5; Rules of Tennessee Dept. of Human Services, Child Support Division, Chapter 1240-2-4].
Upon request, the court may delay a divorce proceeding to allow an attempt at reconciliation. In addition, in those cases which involve child custody considerations, the court may order either or both parents to an educational seminar concerning the effects of divorce on children. [Tennessee Code Annotated; Volume 6A, Title 36, Sections 36-4-126, 36-4-130, and 36-6-101].