Divorce Rules for Tennessee

by Bernadette A. Safrath

    Divorce laws are in place in each state to ensure you get what you are entitled to when you end your marriage. In Tennessee, the divorce rules set forth who is eligible to file for divorce in the state and the procedures the court must follow when issuing a divorce decree.

    State Residence

    The first rule for divorce in Tennessee is a residency requirement. The Tennessee Code states that you are eligible for a divorce if you or your spouse have been a state resident for at least six months. If you are in the military and do not have permanent residence, you may file for divorce in Tennessee if you have been stationed in the state for at least one year. The petition for divorce must be filed in the domestic relations or family court located in either spouse's county of residence.

    No-Fault Divorce

    The petition for divorce must contain at least one ground for divorce recognized by Tennessee law. Tennessee permits both no-fault and fault divorce. No-fault divorce means that neither spouse committed any kind of marital misconduct leading to the end of the marriage. There are two types of no-fault divorce. First, if the spouses do not have minor children and have lived "separate and apart" for at least two years, either spouse can file for divorce on that basis. If spouses have not been separated for two years, they may file for a no-fault divorce based on "irreconcilable differences."

    Fault Divorce

    Fault grounds for divorce are also available in Tennessee if one spouse committed a wrongdoing that caused the end of the marriage. For example, if one spouse abandoned the other with no intent to return for a period of at least one year, the other spouse can file for divorce based on "willful desertion." Other fault grounds recognized in Tennessee include adultery, drug or alcohol addiction, abuse, and bigamy. Additionally, if a spouse is convicted of and sent to prison for a felony, the other spouse is entitled to a divorce.

    Division of Assets

    When spouses divorce, they are each entitled to maintain ownership of their separate property. This includes, for example, property acquired prior to the marriage, any lawsuit awards or settlements received during the marriage and any property acquired in exchange for other separate property. Most other property is considered a marital asset. In Tennessee, marital assets are divided by "equitable distribution." This means that each spouse will receive a fair percentage of the property after the court examines the spouses' ages, length of marriage, value of each spouse's separate property, each spouse's income or ability to earn income, and the nature of the property -- for example, whether any specific asset can actually be divided between the spouses.

    Waiting Period

    Tennessee has a waiting period that must expire before a court can issue a final divorce decree. Spouses must wait 60 days from the date the petition was filed before receiving the judgment of divorce. If the spouses have minor children, the court must wait 90 days before signing the divorce decree.

    About the Author

    Bernadette A. Safrath is an attorney who has been writing professionally since 2008. Safrath was published in Touro Law Center's law review and now writes legal articles for various websites. Safrath has a Bachelor of Arts in music from Long Island University at C.W. Post, as well as a Juris Doctor from Touro College.