Tennessee Divorce Laws
The state of Tennessee has unique divorce laws for people who wish to terminate their marriage.
We are providing this online divorce information to you as an easy divorce reference guide to help you while you are doing your own divorce. This information (and much more) is available inside your personal 3StepDivorce account area in order to help you understand how Tennessee addresses the most important issues in the divorce process and certain elements throughout your divorce forms.
The following overview of Tennessee divorce laws will help you understand the filing procedure and other primary issues concerning your divorce. Please keep in mind that our Tennessee online divorce service and support staff will make the process easy for you from start to finish. We take the difficulty out of doing your own divorce.
Residency Requirements: In order to file for a divorce in Tennessee, you or your spouse must meet the strict residency requirements. These requirements permit the court to have jurisdiction of your case, resulting in allowing you to use their judicial system. These requirements are only a concern for spouses who have recently relocated or plan to relocate in the near future. They are as follows:
The spouse filing for the divorce must be a resident of the state at the time the grounds for divorce took place. If the grounds took place outside the state of Tennessee, one of the spouses must be a resident for 6 months prior to filing. The divorce shall be filed in the county in which both spouses reside if they are both residents; or the county in which the respondent resides if he or she is a resident; or the county in which the petitioner resides. (Tennessee Code - Volume 6A, Title 36, Sections 36-4-104 and 36-4-105)
No-Fault Grounds: Most uncontested divorce cases are filed according to a "no-fault" ground. We are using the term "no-fault" in a generic fashion by labeling all grounds that do not actually declare a "fault" as "no-fault". In the state of Tennessee the "no-fault" grounds are as follows:
(A) Irreconcilable differences if:  there has been no denial of this ground;  the spouses submit a properly signed marital dissolution agreement (see below under Simplified or Special Divorce Procedures); or  this grounds for divorce is combined with a general fault-based grounds or (B) living separate and apart without cohabitation for 2 years when there are no minor children. (Tennessee Code - Volume 6A, Title 36, Sections 36-4-101 and 36-4-103)
Filing Party Name: The Petitioner. This is the spouse who is recognized as the initiator of the divorce and is the one who actually files the Petition for Divorce with the county court.
Non-Filing Party Name: The Respondent. This spouse plays a lesser role in an uncontested divorce versus a contested divorce. He or she will be required to sign and/or respond in a timely fashion to the documents filed by his or her spouse.
Family Law or Domestic Relations Court: In the __________ Court of __________ County, Tennessee. All divorce cases in the state of Tennessee are facilitated through this court for that particular county.
Clerk's Name: All correspondence with a Tennessee clerk of the court should formally address him or her as follows: Office of the Clerk of the County Circuit Court.
Property and Debt Division: Tennessee is considered an "equitable distribution" state. If you and your spouse are unable to come to an agreement on how the marital property will be divided, the court shall use a three step process. First, it will determine what property is marital. Second, it will put a value on the marital property. Third, it will divide the marital property in an equitable fashion, which is not necessarily equal, but rather what is considered to be fair.
Separate property will consist of the following: (A) acquired prior to marriage; (B) by gift or inheritance; (C) in exchange for any separate property, or (D) obtained from income or appreciation of separate property, if the other spouse did not contribute to the preservation and appreciation.
The marital property will consist of the following: (A) any property acquired during the marriage by either spouse; (B) any increase in value of any property to which the spouses contributed to the upkeep and appreciation; and (3) any retirement benefits.
Without considering marital fault, the court will consider the following factors when dividing the property: (A) the contribution of each spouse to the acquisition, preservation, appreciation, or dissipation of the marital property, including the contribution of each spouse as homemaker, wage-earner, or parent; (B) the value of each spouse's property at the time of the marriage and at present; (C) the economic circumstances of each spouse at the time the division of property is to become effective; (D) the length of the marriage; (E) the age and health of the spouses; (F) the vocational skills of the spouses; (G) the liabilities and needs of each spouse and the opportunity of each for further acquisition of capital assets and income; (H) the Federal Income Tax consequences of the court's division of the property; (I) the present and potential earning capability of each spouse; (J) the tangible and intangible contributions made by 1 spouse to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other spouse; (K) the relative ability of each party for the future acquisition of capital and income; (L) the employability and earning capacity of the spouses; (M) any Social Security Benefits; and (N) any other factors necessary to do equity and justice between the spouses. (Tennessee Code - Volume 6A, Title 36, Sections 36-4-121)
Spousal Support, Maintenance, or Alimony: Determining the amount of spousal support, if any, is not as objective as determining child support. Spousal support, whether permanent or temporary, is typically decided on a case-by-case basis, because it is very likely that unique circumstances and factors regarding the marriage and the property award will play a significant role in allowing the court to arrive at the appropriate amount.
The court will consider the following when making a temporary or permanent support award: (A) the value of any separate property and the value of the spouse's share of any marital property; (B) whether the spouse seeking alimony is the custodian of a child whose circumstances make it appropriate for that spouse not to seek outside employment; (C) the need for sufficient education and training to enable the spouse to find appropriate employment; (D) the standard of living during the marriage; (E) the duration of the marriage; (F) the comparative financial resources of the spouses, including their comparative earning abilities in the labor market and any retirement, pension, or profit-sharing benefits; (G) the needs and obligations of each spouse; (H) the tangible and intangible contributions of each spouse to the marriage, including services rendered in homemaking, childcare, and contributions to the education, earning capacity, and career-building of the other spouse; (I) the relative education and training of the spouses and the opportunity of each party to secure education and training; (J) the age of the spouses; (K) the physical and mental condition of the spouse; (L) the tax consequences to each spouse; (M) the usual occupation of the spouses during the marriage; (N) the vocational skills and employability of the spouse seeking alimony; (O) the conduct of the spouses during the marriage; and (P) any other factor the court deems just and equitable. (Tennessee Code - Volume 6A, Title 36, Sections 36-4-101)
Custody and Visitation: Shared or joint child custody has become more and more popular with the Tennessee courts. If you and your spouse request to have joint or shared "legal" custody, it will almost always be granted. As for joint or shared "physical" custody, the court will examine this a bit more closely to determine if it is a realistic choice that would result in an arrangement that is best for the children.
The court will consider the following factors when making a child custody award: (a) the love, affection, and emotional ties between the parents and child; (b) the importance of continuity and the length of time the child has lived in a stable and satisfactory environment; (c) whether there has been any domestic violence or physical or mental abuse to the child, spouse, or any other person and whether a parent has had to relocate to avoid such violence; (d) the stability of the family unit; (e) the mental and physical health of the parents; (f) the home, school, and community record of the child; (g) the reasonable preference of a child over 12 years of age; (h) the character and behavior of any person who lives in or visits the parent's home and such person's interactions with the child; and (i) each parent's past and potential performance of parenting duties, including a willingness and ability to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship with the other parent. (Tennessee Code - Volume 6A, Title 36, Sections 36-4-106)
Determining Child Support: The basis for determining a monthly support amount is best achieved by referring to the Tennessee child support worksheet. The worksheet utilizes the child support guidelines that are defined by state law. The court will use this same worksheet as a building block for determining the support obligation, that is if you and your spouse are unable to come to an agreement on this issue.
When to court is required to determine a child support obligation it will consider the following factors: (1) the financial resources of the child; (2) the standard of living the child would have enjoyed if the marriage had not been dissolved; (3) the physical and emotional conditions and educational needs of the child; (4) the financial resources, needs, and obligations of the parents; (5) the earning capacity of each parent; (6) the age and health of the child; (7) the monetary and non-monetary contributions of each parent to the well-being of the child; (8) any pension or retirement benefits of the parents; (9) whether the non-custodial parent's visitation is over 110 days per year or under 55 days per year; and (10) any other relevant factors.
The court may also require the paying parent have a life insurance policy naming the child as a beneficiary should he she pre-decease the emancipation of the child. (Tennessee Code - Volume 6A, Title 36, Sections 36-4-101 and 36-4-501)
Copyright Notice: These Tennessee divorce laws above are copyrighted by Divorce Source, Inc. This abbreviated and revised version of the state laws has been compiled from applicable state laws and unauthorized reproduction in any fashion is prohibited. Violation of this copyright notice may result in immediate legal action.
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