Tennessee Divorce Laws

Filing for divorce is an emotionally challenging time. One way to ease some of the concerns you might have is to learn a little more about the laws that surround the process.

Who Can File for Divorce and On What Grounds?

The starting place when filing for a Tennessee divorce is learning the state’s residency requirements. These are as follows:

  • The filing spouse needs to be a resident of the state when the divorce grounds occurred.
  • If the grounds occurred outside of the state, one spouse needs to be a resident for six months before filing.
  • If the parties do not live in the same county, the divorce will be filed in the county where the respondent (recipient of the divorce papers) lives, provided he or she is a resident of the state.

Tennessee allows for no-fault divorce if one of the following is true:

  • There is an uncontested claim of irreconcilable differences accompanied by a marital dissolution agreement that has been signed properly
  • The couple has lived separate, apart and without cohabitation for two years and no minor children are involved

Fault reasons allowable for divorce in Tennessee include:

  • Adultery
  • Impotence
  • Alcoholism or drug addiction
  • Felony conviction with imprisonment
  • Willful desertion for one year
  • Conviction of an infamous crime
  • Bigamy
  • The wife is found to be pregnant by another man at the time of the marriage without the husband’s knowledge
  • Abandonment, neglect, or banning the spouse from the marital or family home
  • Endangering the spouse’s life
  • Refusal of moving to the state with the spouse and the subsequent absence for two years
  • Cruel and inhuman treatment, including unsafe or improper marital conduct
  • Indignities making the spouse’s life intolerable

If one of the parties is in the military, a special set of military family laws must also be followed. To ensure that they are, many couples will hire a military family law attorney.

Division of Property

Tennessee is a state with equitable distribution practices when it comes to dividing property for couples who cannot agree. This means that the property will be divided based on what is fair, not necessarily equal. The following factors will be considered when making this determination:

  • Contribution of the parties to the acquisition, appreciation, preservation, or dissipation of the property, including the parental and homemaking contributions
  • Value of the property at the beginning of the marriage and at present
  • Duration of the marriage
  • Age and health of the spouses
  • Vocational skills
  • Economic circumstances of each party at the time of the division
  • Tax consequences
  • Present and future potential earning capacities
  • Employability and earning capacities
  • Ability of each party to acquire future income or capital
  • Liabilities, needs, and opportunities for future income
  • Tangible and intangible contributions to the education, training, and earning power of a spouse
  • Social Security benefits
  • Other factors the court deems necessary

Child Custody

Child custody decisions are made based on what is in the child’s best interests. The factors considered may include:

  • Love, affection, and emotional ties between the parents and the child
  • Any domestic violence
  • Character and behavior of anyone who lives in or visits the parents’ homes
  • The importance of continuing the child’s stable environment
  • Reasonable preference if the child is over 12
  • Stability of a family unit
  • Mental and physical health concerns
  • Home, school, and community records
  • Potential and past performance of parenting duties for each parent, including the ability to foster a parent-child relationship with the other parent


Some cases will involve support form one spouse to the other, either on a temporary or permanent basis. Factors considered when making this decision include:

  • Value of the spouse’s property
  • Any custody arrangement that would prevent employment
  • Need for education and training to allow a spouse to find employment
  • Standard of living experienced during the marriage
  • Length of the marriage
  • Financial resources of the spouses
  • Needs and obligations of each spouse
  • Contributions to the marriage
  • Physical and mental condition
  • Age
  • Education and training of each party
  • Tax consequences
  • Usual occupation during the marriage
  • Employability and vocational skills
  • Conduct of spouses during the marriage

Child support amounts are based on the Percentage of Income Formula. This determines the support amount based on charging each parent a percent of their income based on the number of children requiring support.