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Tennessee Divorce Law

While your emotions may be compromised during the divorce process, you don’t want them compromising the process itself. A vengeful attempt to financially hurt your spouse could be used against you when the court makes judgments about how your marital property is divided or who gets custody of the children. It’s important to keep a cool head and brush up on state divorce laws to ensure that you get what you need out of your divorce.

LawInfo’s Tennessee Divorce Law articles can help relieve some of the stress of the process. You’ll learn about the state’s divorce prerequisites, how property is divided and many other divorce topics. Whether you need assistance in Knoxville, Memphis or Nashville, LawInfo can help connect you with a Tennessee divorce attorney.

Tennessee Divorce Residency Requirement

Prior to filing for divorce, either spouse must have been a resident of Tennessee for six or more months. If either spouse is a member of the U.S. armed services, the divorce residency requirement is one year or longer. (See the Tennessee Code § 36-4-104.)

Tennessee Divorce Fault Grounds

Every divorce case in Tennessee must meet one of 15 valid grounds for divorce. (See § 36-4-101.) The ground (or reason for divorce) you choose to file with can influence a court’s judgments on the terms of the divorce, including alimony, marital property division and child custody.

Only one divorce ground, “irreconcilable differences between the parties,” may not influence such court judgments. This is often called the “no fault” ground, meaning that neither spouse is responsible for the breakdown of the marriage. Most of the other divorce grounds suggest that one or both spouses committed marital misconduct. These grounds include:

  • Bigamy (or marrying the current spouse while still legally married to another partner).
  • Both parties have lived separately and apart without minor children for two or more years.
  • Malicious or willful desertion for one year or longer.
  • Cruel and inhuman treatment that makes cohabitation unsafe (such as domestic abuse).
  • The wife became pregnant with a third party’s child without the husband’s knowledge at the time of the marriage.
  • One or both parties are convicted of a felony and confined in a penitentiary.
  • One party attempted to murder the other by any means with malice.

Separation vs. Annulment in Tennessee

Divorce is not the only option in Tennessee to separate yourself from your partner. You might be opposed to getting a divorce for social or religious reasons, but you don’t need to continue cohabitating with your partner if you don’t desire to. Depending on your circumstances, either a legal separation or an annulment may be more desirable choices.

Legal separation can be thought of as “divorce lite.” You can arrange with your spouse the details of your separation, such as a division of marital property (including who pays what portions of shared debts) and child custody, visitation and support. You don’t need to involve a court since a legal separation agreement only needs to be notarized, but you may want to consult with an attorney to ensure that both parties are in agreement to the details.

An annulment ends a marriage like a divorce but goes further to legally invalidate the marriage. When a court annuls a marriage, it is claiming that the marriage never happened in the first place because it violated Tennessee’s marriage laws. For example, if one of the parties was underage and married without parental or legal consent, their marriage may be annulled when they come of age. (See § 36-3-101 through 109 for the conditions that need to be met to get legally married in Tennessee.)

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