Divorce Law Tennessee


The law relating to divorce in the state of Tennessee is governed by Title 36 of the Tennessee Code Annotated.


The law relating to Divorce classifies the grounds of Divorce into two broad categories such as (i) no fault ground and (ii) general grounds
No-Fault Ground

This ground may arise in the following circumstances

  1. irreconcilable differences if
    1. there has been no denial of this ground; or
    2. the spouses submit a properly signed marital dissolution agreement or
    3. this grounds for divorce is combined with a general fault-based grounds; or
  2. living separate and apart without cohabitation for 2 years when there are no minor children.

General Grounds

The following may be good grounds that may be taken for obtaining a divorce

  1. impotence;
  2. adultery;
  3. conviction of a felony and imprisonment;
  4. alcoholism and/or drug addiction;
  5. wife is pregnant by another at the time of marriage without husband's knowledge;
  6. willful desertion for 1 year;
  7. bigamy;
  8. endangering the life of the spouse;
  9. commission and/or conviction of an infamous crime;
  10. refusing to move to Tennessee with a spouse and willfully absenting oneself from a new residence for 2 years;
  11. cruel and inhumane treatment;
  12. spouse has made life intolerable;
  13. abandonment or kicking spouse out of the home and refusing to provide spousal support; and
  14. living separate from each other for 2 or more years.


Residency Requirements for filing divorce petition

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:

  1. the county in which both spouses lived at the time of their separation;
  2. the county in which the respondent lives if he or she is a resident of Tennessee; or
  3. the county in which the petitioner lives if the respondent is a non-resident of Tennessee.

The Court for filing the divorce petition

Both husband and wife or one of they can file the divorce petition on the grounds set by law of the State in the Circuit Court or Chancery Court depending upon their place of residence.

Divorce Procedures

If the divorce is based on irreconcilable differences, the spouses may enter into a notarized marital settlement agreement. The agreement must:

  1. make specific reference to a pending divorce by the name of the court and the docket number; or
  2. state that the respondent is aware that a divorce will be filed for in the state of Tennessee; and
  3. state that the respondent waives service of process and waives filing an answer.

The waiver of service will be valid for 180 days after the respondent signs the agreement and will constitute a general appearance by the respondent and give the court personal jurisdiction over the respondent and will constitute a default judgement.

The petition for divorce must have been on file for over 60 days before a hearing will be held if the spouses have no minor children and 90 days if they have any minor children. The spouses must make adequate and sufficient provisions in their marital settlement agreement for the care and custody of any minor children and for an adequate settlement of their property. The spouses may also make provisions in their settlement for alimony.

A final decree may be entered without any corroborating proof or testimony by the petitioner or respondent.

If the respondent contests or denies that there are irreconcilable differences, a divorce may not be granted on those grounds, unless there is a valid marital settlement agreement. Some counties may require the respondent to sign an appearance and waiver form before the court clerk for it to be valid. In addition, in any petition for divorce, the wife's maiden name must be stated and the race and color of each spouse must be stated. Financial affidavits may also be required.


The legal separation is also commonly called as divorce from bed and board. The grounds for legal separation are the same as the grounds for a divorce. There is no residency requirement specified in the statute.


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 is an "equitable distribution" state. The separate property of each spouse is retained by that spouse. Separate property is property that was:

  1. acquired prior to marriage;
  2. by gift or inheritance;
  3. in exchange for any separate property, or
  4. obtained from income or appreciation of separate property, if the other spouse did not contribute to the preservation and appreciation.

The marital property, including:

  1. any property acquired during the marriage by either spouse;
  2. any increase in value of any property to which the spouses contributed tot the upkeep and appreciation; and
  3. any retirement benefits, is divided by the court, without regard to any marital fault,

The court may award for property distribution after a consideration of the following factors:

  1. 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;
  2. the value of each spouse's property;
  3. the economic circumstances of each spouse at the time the division of property is to become effective;
  4. the length of the marriage;
  5. the age and health of the spouses;
  6. the vocational skills of the spouses;
  7. the liabilities and needs of each spouse and the opportunity of each for further acquisition of capital assets and income;
  8. the federal income tax consequences of the court's division of the property;
  9. the present and potential earning capability of each spouse;
  10. the tangible and intangible contributions made by one spouse to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other spouse;
  11. the relative ability of each party for the future acquisition of capital and income; and
  12. any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the spouses.


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:

  1. the value of any separate property and the value of the spouses share of any marital property;
  2. whether the spouse seeking alimony is the custodian of a child whose circumstances make it appropriate for that spouse not to seek outside employment;
  3. the need for sufficient education and training to enable the spouse to find appropriate employment;
  4. the standard of living during the marriage;
  5. the duration of the marriage;
  6. the comparative financial resources of the spouses, including their comparative earning abilities in the labor market and any retirement, pension, or profit-sharing benefits;
  7. the needs and obligations of each spouse;
  8. the tangible and intangible contributions of each spouse to the marriage, including services rendered in homemaking, child care, and contributions to the education, earning capacity, and career building of the other spouse;
  9. the relative education and training of the spouses and the opportunity of each party to secure education and training;
  10. the age of the spouses;
  11. the physical and mental condition of the spouse;
  12. the tax consequences to each spouse;
  13. the usual occupation of the spouses during the marriage;
  14. the vocational skills and employability of the spouse seeking alimony;
  15. the conduct of the spouses during the marriage; and
  16. 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.