State Of Tennessee Divorce Law


Tennessee Family Law And Divorce Resource 

U.S. Divorce Laws are enacted by each state using their respective legislative process. Once legislation is enacted into law, the divorce courts in Tennessee have the authority to manage the divorce proceedings, including, spousal and child support payments, custodial rights of parents and the division of community property.

Since state laws are repealed and amended frequently, it is always advisable to consult with an experienced divorce lawyer before making any important decisions about your marriage. You can also visit the GotTrouble Divorce Resource for a more in-depth understanding of related divorce and family law topics.

As of 2016, all states allow for “no fault” divorce. Yet many courts still factor in the respective parties past behavior when determining the division of community property, debts, custody, support and related issues.


On June 26, 2015, the US Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage is a right protected by the US Constitution in all 50 states. It follows, therefore, that the rights and obligations between same-sex divorcing parties are subject to the same dissolution laws of that state. Reference: US Supreme Court Opinion: Obergefell v. Hodges. (For more information visit


States like Tennessee require parties to live apart for a minimum length of time (2 years – see separation requirements below) before seeking a no-fault divorce. Irreconcilable differences may be asserted as a sole ground for divorce or as an alternate ground for divorce with an action cause.


The following is for-cause statutory basis for divorce: Impotence; Bigamy; Adultery; Willful desertion for one whole year; Conviction of an infamous crime, or sentenced to confinement in a penitentiary for a felony; Cruel or inhuman treatment that makes cohabitation unsafe; Attempting to take the life of the other; Refusal to move to this state, and being willfully absent from the spouse residing in Tennessee for two years; The woman was pregnant at the time of the marriage, by another person, without the knowledge of the husband; Habitual drunkenness or drug abuse after the marriage.


The plaintiff must be a resident of this state, or if the grounds for divorce occurred outside of the state, either the party must have resided in the state for 6 months preceding the filing of the complaint. Military personal must be a resident of the state for at least one year prior to filing. The petition must be filed in the chancery or circuit court in the county where the parties reside at the time of their separation, or in either the country where the defendant resides, or where the applicant resides.


For a continuous period of two or more years (that commenced prior to or after April 18, 1985) both parties have lived in separate residences, have not cohabitated as man and wife during this period, and there are no minor children of the parties

The grounds to file a complaint for a legal separation are the same as for a divorce. The court can address matters such as child custody, visitation, support, and property issues during legal separation upon motion by either party or by agreement of the parties. The court has the power to grant an absolute divorce to either party if there has been an order of legal separation for more than two years, the parties have not reconciled, and either party for an absolute divorce files a petition.


Tennessee is an equitable distribution state that divided the marital property equitably without regard to marital fault. Marital property is all property acquired during the marriage, regardless of whose name is on the title. Property acquired before the marriage or after a legal separation, inheritances and gifts, and pain and suffering awards are considered separate property.

The court will consider many equitable factors including:

  • The length of the marriage;
  • The age, physical and mental health, employability, and financial needs of each spouse;
  • The contribution of one spouse to the education or increased earning power of the other spouse;
  • The relative ability of each spouse for future employment and asset acquirement;
  • Contributions as a homemaker, wage earner, or parent;
  • The value of the separate property of each spouse;
  • The economic circumstances of each spouse at the time of the divorce
  • The tax consequences of the proposed property settlement;
  • The social security benefits available to each spouse; and any other factors relevant to an equitable distribution settlement.

Note: The court may award the family home and effects, or the right to live there for a reasonable period of time, to either party, but shall give special consideration to the spouse having physical custody of a child or children of the marriage.


The court may award alimony to be paid by one spouse to the other, or out of either spouse’s property, according to the nature of the case and the circumstances of the parties.

The court may award rehabilitative alimony, periodic alimony, transitional alimony, or lump sum alimony, or a combination of these, taking the following factors into consideration:

  • The relative earning capacity, obligations, needs, and financial resources of each party;
  • The relative earning capability of each party, and the necessity of a party to secure further education and training to improve such party’s earnings capacity to a reasonable level;
  • The duration of the marriage;
  • The age, mental, and physical condition of each party, including, but not limited to, physical disability or incapacity due to a chronic debilitating disease;
  • Whether the custodial parent is unable to work outside the home due to the care of a minor child; (
  • The separate assets of each party;
  •  The property apportioned to the party;
  • The standard of living established during the marriage;
  • The contributions as a homemaker and to the education, training or increased earning power of the other party; (
  •  The relative faulty of the parties;
  • Any other factors, including the tax consequences to each party, as are necessary to consider the equities between the parties.


There is no provision in the Tennessee Code for the restoration of a wife’s name upon divorce. However, a wife may resume the use of her former or maiden name after a divorce.


The court may award custody to either parent, or to both parents in the case of joint custody or shared parenting based on the best interests of the child, taking the following factors into consideration:

  • The emotional ties, love, and affection between the parents and the child;
  • The ability of the parents to provide adequately for the child;
  • The quality of the child’s adjustment to the child’s present environment, including the home, school, and community, provided there is no evidence of child abuse;
  • The stability of the family unit, as well as the mental and physical health of the parents;
  • The preference of the child if 12 years of age or older. The court may also hear the preference of a younger child upon request, but it will not be given as much weight as that of an older child;
  • Evidence of abuse to the child, the other parent, or any other person;
  • The character of any other person who resides with or frequently interacts with the child;
  • The parenting abilities of each parent, including their willingness to encourage a close and continuing relationship between the child and the other parent.


Child support in Tennessee is based on the “Income Shares” Model. Learn how Tennessee enforces and calculates Child Support. The factors may include court health insurance coverage for each child of the marriage, with either party to pay all, or each party to pay a pro rata share of, the health care costs not paid by insurance proceeds.





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