What is Considered Abandonment in Tennessee Divorce Cases?

By Tom Streissguth

The laws of Tennessee allow several grounds for divorce or legal separation, including abandonment and separation -- voluntary or not -- of the parties. To file a successful divorce petition based on such grounds, your spouse must either agree to the grounds, or you must prove them to a judge in divorce court. You must state the grounds in the initial Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, otherwise the court will dismiss the case.


Abandonment means leaving the home or the spouse and moving to a new residence, either within Tennessee or out of state. As a "fault" ground, you must prove abandonment if the other party does not consent to the divorce. This means providing evidence in the form of written documents and spoken testimony that the abandonment was willful and permanent. Similar grounds are a forced removal from the home by one of the spouses -- and a refusal to allow the other spouse to return to the home.


If you move to Tennessee from another state, and your spouse refuses to move with you and does not move to Tennessee within a period of two years, this also constitutes a case of abandonment and grounds for divorce.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More


Tennessee law imposes residency requirements on anyone filing for divorce. You must be a resident of the state at the time the alleged grounds for divorce occurred. If those grounds, including abandonment, occurred outside Tennessee, then either spouse must be a resident of Tennessee for at least six months before the divorce petition is filed. The petition may be filed in the county of residence of either spouse.

Desertion and Separation

Tennessee law also provides for "willful desertion" for at least one year as valid grounds for divorce. In the case of willful desertion, the petitioner must prove the intent of the other party to abandon or desert the family. Another provision of the divorce laws provides for "no-fault" grounds if there are no children of the marriage and the spouses have lived separately for at least two years.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
Grounds for Divorce in Tennessee


Related articles

What Are Desertion Divorce Papers?

Although divorce law is established at the state level, there are some common themes and requirements among the states. For example, individuals seeking divorce must have grounds to file. The permitted grounds for divorce vary by state, but are typically sorted into two categories – fault and no-fault divorce, with some states allowing only no-fault divorce. The majority of states, however, recognize desertion or abandonment as no-fault grounds for divorce.

90 Day Cooling Off Period for a Divorce in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania requires a 90-day "cooling off" period for no-fault or "mutual consent" divorces, which provides an estranged couple the opportunity to resolve existing differences and salvage the marriage. If the husband and wife cannot resolve their disagreements in that time period, in most cases, a divorce decree can be issued by the court.

How to Legally Separate in Tennessee

Tennessee recognizes legal separation which authorizes married couples to live apart. A legal separation is essentially the same as a divorce in Tennessee, except that the spouses cannot remarry. The grounds for separation are the same as the grounds for divorce, and the court can rule on all of the issues usually dealt with in a divorce, except for the dissolution of marriage. Child custody, financial support and distribution of assets can be incorporated into a legal separation decree.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Is the Absence of Sexual Relations Grounds for Divorce?

Sexual behavior outside the marriage and the lack of sexual relations within the marriage can serve as grounds for ...

Abandonment Laws in Alabama Regarding Marriage

Alabama state laws establish spousal rights in marriage and divorce after abandonment. In particular, Alabama law ...

Abandonment Laws in a Florida Divorce

Florida law provides that a court may grant a divorce request if the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” Whether the ...

Georgia Law on Custody If Adultery Is Committed

When spouses get divorced in Georgia, one spouse's infidelity usually doesn't influence the court's decision when it ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED