What are the Grounds for Divorce in Tennessee?

March 15, 2023

What Are “Grounds for Divorce”?

From the court’s standpoint, marriage is a legal agreement between two individuals with ramifications impacting everything from taxes and real estate to support and child custody. A divorce terminates that agreement, allowing the individuals to continue their lives independently. Sometimes, it is necessary to allege one or more grounds for divorce and assess the available proof for each ground. Your legal reasoning for your divorce is known as the grounds for divorce.

Divorces are often messy and complex. Providing solid proof of your grounds for divorce can be challenging and time-consuming, but you may have other options. A knowledgeable Nashville family law attorney can explain what you need to know about the different grounds for divorce and when they are used.

How Does Fault Factor Into a Tennessee Divorce?

Many US states now allow for so-called “no-fault” divorces where no wrongdoing need be proven on the part of either party. No-fault divorces are often easier for everyone involved because they are simpler, cheaper and faster. However, Tennessee is not a true no-fault divorce state because state law only allows for a no-fault divorce under very specific conditions.

If your situation does not meet those conditions, you must collect evidence to prove that your spouse’s actions meet one of the grounds for an at-fault divorce in order to obtain the divorce regardless of your spouse’s position.

What Are Your No-fault Divorce Options?

There are only two no-fault grounds for divorce in Tennessee:

  • Irreconcilable differences: Nationwide, this is the most commonly used reason for divorce. It allows you to terminate the marriage without placing blame on anyone. However, Tennessee only allows couples to use irreconcilable differences as a ground for a divorce if they are in complete agreement about the divorce and have settled all legal issues through a marital dissolution agreement. If minor children are involved, a parenting plan must also be created. If the other party contests the divorce or you cannot resolve a divorce issue, you will be unable to continue under this option.
  • Two years of separation with no minor children: Tennessee allows couples to legally separate and live in different residences while remaining married. If this separation lasts two years and you have not reconciled, you can file for this no-fault divorce, and your spouse will not be able to prevent it. However, this option is not available to couples who have minor children.

What Are Acceptable Grounds for a Fault-Based Divorce?

If a no-fault divorce is not suitable for your situation, you still have several options for a fault-based divorce in Tennessee. To successfully file for this type of divorce, you must choose the specific grounds for divorce that apply to your circumstances, then provide clear proof of your spouse’s actions and how they contributed to the failure of the marriage. Evidence may include yours and/or witness testimony, copies of documents, images of messages received, medical records, police reports, and more.

Under Tennessee state law, there are thirteen possible grounds for a fault-based divorce:

  • Sterility or impotence.
  • Bigamy, which is marrying a second person while still legally wed to another.
  • Adultery of either party.
  • At least one year of willful or malicious desertion without cause.
  • Being convicted of a felony crime that results in imprisonment.
  • Being sentenced to prison due to a felony conviction.
  • Attempting murder on the other spouse.
  • Refusing to move to Tennessee with the spouse, leading to at least a two-year separation.
  • Being pregnant with another man’s child without the husband’s knowledge at the time of the marriage.
  • Habitually abusing alcohol or drugs after the marriage has commenced.
  • Inappropriate marital conduct, otherwise known as cruel and inhuman treatment.
  • Indignities to the spouse, making continuation of the marriage intolerable.
  • Unjust abandonment, eviction, or neglect of the spouse without just cause.

Will Your Grounds for Divorce Impact Your Settlement?

The grounds you claim for your divorce in Tennessee cannot legally be considered by the court when ruling on certain aspects of your settlement, such as the division of property or debt. Under Tennessee law, the property is divided by the court based on different factors, including:

  • How long the marriage lasted
  • How each spouse contributed to the property amassed
  • The economic needs of each spouse
  • The separate assets of each spouse

However, the grounds cited for divorce may play a role in determining other areas of the divorce settlement, such as alimony, attorney’s fees and child custody. For example, if one spouse was proven adulterous, the amount of alimony awarded to that spouse will likely be reduced.

Child custody agreements generally favor the individual who has provided most of the hands-on care for the child, but the law can be complex. A knowledgeable divorce lawyer can help you negotiate the best possible outcome in your case, no matter what grounds for divorce you or your spouse cited.

How Can a Tennessee Divorce Lawyer Assist You?

Divorce can be challenging and often expensive. For most people, the ideal situation is a divorce based on no-fault grounds because it is faster, easier, and does not require either party to bare their personal lives to the court. Unfortunately, not every couple can split amicably and agree on every aspect of their divorce.

If you are in a situation where you must get a divorce based on fault grounds, you deserve an experienced Tennessee divorce lawyer who will fight for your rights and make the process as easy as possible. Contact our law firm today to speak to a compassionate lawyer who can explain your legal rights and options.

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