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How does divorce work in Tennessee?

Ending a marriage may be emotional, complicated and difficult. Understanding how divorce basically works under Tennessee law can help you navigate this process.

Divorce grounds

In Tennessee you must meet legal residency requirement and have legal grounds for filing for divorce. These include:

  • Irreconcilable differences.
  • Unacceptable treatment from the other spouse which makes you leave.
  • Adultery.
  • Bigamy.
  • Desertion or absent for one year without a reasonable explanation.
  • Abandonment or spouse tells you to leave without reason and without financial support.
  • Conviction of a felony and sentenced to prison or conviction of infamous crime.
  • Habitual use of drugs or alcohol beginning or after marriage.
  • Engaging in conduct inappropriate for marriage, cruel or inhumane treatment or unsafe behavior.
  • Impotency and unable to reproduce.
  • Living separately and no minor children as a married couple.

Spousal support  

Spousal support, also known as maintenance, is paid by a spouse to the other spouse if they suffer economically, relied on their spouse for support and were a homemaker or parent during their marriage. Courts try to assure that the spouse receiving this support can maintain their standard of living. Judges will also review factors such as financial needs, earning capacity and assets, marriage length, minor children, fault in contributing to divorce and the recipient spouse’s contributions as homemaker or helping with the other spouse’s training, education and earning capacity.

Basic steps

A spouse seeking divorce meeting residency requirements and alleging proper grounds, must file appropriate divorce papers and serve them upon their spouse. That spouse may contest the divorce, challenge any allegations or agree to the divorce.

Court proceedings may be necessary if the divorce is contested. If the spouse does not respond within a specified time, the divorce may be granted as uncontested. In some cases, a judge may also be able to stop a spouse from engaging in abusive actions such as forcing the other spouse to use all their financial resources or making financial child custody concessions.

An attorney can help a spouse protect their rights in a divorce. They may also help assure that a decree is fair and reasonable.