Tennessee's Laws on a Divorce From a Deported Spouse

by Timothy Mucciante Google

    The Tennessee Code provides several alternatives for a Tennessee resident divorcing his or her deported spouse, but the state does not have a specific statute regarding divorcing a deportee. Various grounds may be used for such a divorce, including spousal desertion, abandonment, failure to live together, and any criminal conviction that may have caused the deportation. Tennessee law also provides for no-fault divorce.


    Tennessee allows spousal desertion as grounds for a divorce. According to Tennessee Code 36-4-101(a)(4), desertion is the "willful or malicious desertion or absence of either party." This absence must be for one year. Whether the desertion was willful may depend on the cause for the deportation. For example, if the deportation resulted from a criminal conviction, the desertion may be considered willful. A criminal felony conviction where the spouse is sent to prison before deportation may also be grounds for divorce.


    Abandonment is a grounds for divorce when one spouse has left the other and "...has refused or neglected to provide for the spouse while having the ability to so provide." The Chancery Court judge -- the court that handles divorces in Tennessee -- will determine whether a deported spouse has refused or neglected to provide for the other spouse. The judge will also determine whether the spouse was abandoned as a result of the deportation.

    Not Living Together

    A couple not living together for two or more years may also have grounds for a divorce. For this provision to apply, the husband and wife must be living totally apart -- not cohabiting in any way -- and have no children born to the marriage who are still minors. A deported spouse may not be allowed back into the country for more than two years. In that case, the deportation may prove the couple was not living together.

    No-Fault Divorce

    Tennessee recognizes no-fault divorce. No fault grounds for the divorce are required and nothing needs to be proven; your grounds for divorce are simply “irreconcilable differences between the parties.” Under this law, a deportee may enter a marital dissolution agreement which ends the marriage by consent. If the deportee does not consent to the divorce, he or she may be served with the divorce papers through the Secretary of State.

    Process Service Through the Secretary of State

    The Tennessee Secretary of State may accept process service on behalf of a non-resident. The Secretary of State will then serve the non-resident by sending the divorce petition by registered mail to the respondent's last known address. The petitioner must provide this address to the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State can also serve the deported respondent by international registered mail if the respondent is no longer in the country.

    Getting a Valid Address for the Deported Spouse

    Sometimes a valid address must be found in order for the Secretary of State to serve the respondent. In the event the spouse is still being processed for deportation, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Detainee Locator may be used to find the facility in which the deportee is detained. If the deported spouse is back in his country of origin, the petitioner may contact the U.S.-based embassy of the spouse's home country for assistance in getting a valid address for the deported spouse.

    About the Author

    Timothy Mucciante has worked as a lawyer and business consultant, and has been writing professionally since 1981. His writing has appeared in the "Michigan Bar Journal" and many corporate publications. Mucciante holds both a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Michigan State University and a Juris Doctor from Michigan State University/Detroit College of Law.