When Tennessee couples decide to end their marriages, the process of divorce can seem difficult because of the court paperwork and significance of the issues involved. However, spouses often feel more comfortable when they familiarize themselves with the Tennessee divorce process, along with the rules for filing, dividing property, arranging custody and awarding spousal support.
Residency and Venue
Tennessee allows a spouse to file for divorce in the state if he was a resident at the time the basis, or grounds, for the divorce took place. If either spouse recently moved into Tennessee and the grounds happened elsewhere, a spouse can file for divorce once one of the spouses has been a Tennessee resident for at least six months. Divorce can only be filed in the county where the defendant spouse resides, where the spouses last lived together, or where the plaintiff spouse resides if the other spouse does not reside in the state.
Tennessee courts recognize both fault-based grounds and no-fault grounds for divorce. Tennessee’s no-fault grounds are irreconcilable differences between the spouses and, if there are no children involved, separation for at least two years. Spouses can also choose to file on fault-based grounds such as adultery, habitual drunkenness or desertion, but the filing spouse must be able to prove the grounds exist. When spouses agree on the grounds and terms of their divorce, the divorce is “uncontested,” which typically means the divorce process will be faster and less expensive. Tennessee permits contested and uncontested divorce cases.
Spouses can agree on how they want to divide their property, but if they cannot reach agreement, the court will decide property issues for them. Tennessee is an equitable distribution state, so Tennessee courts divide marital property equitably. Equitable distribution doesn’t necessarily mean the court splits property 50/50. Instead, the court considers many factors before dividing a couple’s property, such as the spouses’ income, needs of each spouse and contributions each spouse made to the marriage.
Like property division, spouses can agree on a custody arrangement for their children, called a permanent parenting plan. When courts evaluate custody, their primary concern is creating an arrangement that is in the child’s best interests. To reach a decision, Tennessee courts consider many factors, such as each parent’s ability to prepare the child for adulthood, child’s relationship with each parent, degree to which a parent has been the child’s primary caregiver, emotional needs of the child and character of each parent.
Tennessee courts can award alimony to either spouse, but they do not award alimony in every case. Alimony is a financial payment from one spouse to another, and it may be ordered to cover a spouse’s short-term needs or for a longer period. Courts consider several factors before reaching an alimony decision, including how long the spouses were married, the age and mental health of each spouse, each spouse’s education and training, the needs of each spouse and the earning capacity of each spouse.