Divorce Laws in Tennesee

by Heather Frances J.D. Google
Divorce may be a smooth process if spouses can agree on the divorce terms.

Divorce may be a smooth process if spouses can agree on the divorce terms.

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To file for divorce in Tennessee, the reason for your divorce, or grounds, must have happened in Tennessee or at least one spouse must have lived in the state for at least six months prior to filing. The case must be filed in the circuit court of the county where at least one spouse lives.

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Tennessee recognizes both no-fault and fault grounds for divorce, and the court must find at least one ground exists before it can grant a divorce. A spouse who files a no-fault divorce -- on the grounds of irreconcilable differences or separation -- does not have to provide proof of her spouse’s misconduct. Spouses who file on fault-based grounds, including adultery, desertion and habitual drunkenness, have the burden of proving the misconduct happened.

Property Distribution

Tennessee is an “equitable distribution” state, which means Tennessee courts divide marital property equitably between spouses, but not necessarily equally. Marital property is property acquired during the marriage, but does not include property acquired by inheritance or gift. If spouses cannot agree on how their property should be distributed, the court will use multiple factors to decide how to distribute the property for them. These factors include the spouses’ incomes, the non-marital assets of each spouse and the contributions each spouse made to the marriage.


Tennessee requires parents to attend a parenting class before their divorce is granted, and courts often appoint a guardian ad litem, a specially trained lawyer, mental health professional or social worker to represent the child’s interests. If parents agree on a custody arrangement, called a parenting plan, the court will likely approve the plan. If the parents cannot agree, the court will establish a plan that is in the best interests of the child, considering factors such as the nature of the child’s relationship with each parent, the character and fitness of each parent and the child’s preference if he is 12 years of age or older.

Child Support

Tennessee determines child support by applying a state formula based on the income shares model, which considers the incomes of both parents. The goal of the state guidelines is to provide support for the child at the same level that would exist if the parents remained married. Usually, the alternate residential parent (the parent without primary custody) pays child support to the primary residential parent based on his share of the combined income of both parents.


In Tennessee, courts may award alimony to either spouse, but there is no set formula used by the courts. Instead, Tennessee courts base alimony awards on factors such as the length of the marriage, the standard of living the spouses established during the marriage, the age of the spouses and the way marital property is divided. The court may award alimony to a spouse if it finds she is economically disadvantaged in comparison to the other spouse.