What Are the Grounds for Divorce in Tennessee?

What Are the Grounds for Divorce in Tennessee?

By Katheryn Ogle, Attorney
McDonald, Levy and Taylor, PLLC

Tennessee law allows divorce on either fault or no-fault grounds. Fault grounds mean that one spouse's behavior during the marriage caused the other to seek a divorce. The fault grounds for divorce are:

  • Either spouse, at the time of the marriage, was and still is naturally impotent and incapable of procreation
  • Either party has knowingly entered into a second marriage, in violation of a previous marriage that has not ended
  • Either spouse has committed adultery
  • Either spouse has willfully or maliciously deserted or left the other, without a reasonable cause, for one year
  • Either spouse has been convicted of a crime which, by the laws of the state, renders the party infamous
  • Either spouse has committed a felony and been sentenced to confinement in the penitentiary
  • Either spouse has attempted to take the life of the other, by poison or any other means showing malice
  • Either spouse has refused to remove with that person’s spouse to this state, without a reasonable cause, and has been willfully absent from the spouse residing in Tennessee for two years
  • The wife was pregnant at the time of the marriage, by another person, without the knowledge of the husband
  • Habitual drunkenness or abuse of narcotic drugs by either spouse, when the spouse has contracted such habit after marriage
  • Either spouse is guilty of such cruel and inhuman treatment or conduct towards the spouse as renders cohabitation unsafe and improper, which may also be referred to in pleadings as inappropriate marital conduct
  • Either spouse has offered such indignities to the other spouse’s person as to render the other spouse’s condition intolerable, and thereby forced the other spouse to withdraw, or
  • either spouse has abandoned the other, or turned the other out of doors, and refused or neglected to provide for the other while having the ability to do so. (Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-4-101.)

A no-fault divorce is an alternative to a fault divorce. With a no-fault divorce, the spouses do not blame each other for the breakdown of the marriage. Instead, they simply tell the court they want a divorce based on “irreconcilable differences.” This is the most common type of divorce that occurs.

How long does a divorce take?

An irreconcilable difference, no-fault divorce takes about two to six months. If there are no children in the marriage, there is a mandatory 60-day period after filing the complaint before a divorce can be final. If the couple has children, it takes a minimum of 90 days for a divorce to be final. (Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-4-101 (b).)

A contested divorce can last years, with the average case lasting a year or more. Finally, if the spouses agree to divide a pension, it might take time after the court grants the divorce to complete the division, due to the necessity of a Qualified Domestic Relations Order, often referred to as a “QDRO.”

Can I get an annulment?

Annulments are infrequently the recommended route for dissolution of a marriage.  Annulments may be available if the marriage was void at the time of the marriage or based on fraud or duress. The court will also approve an annulment if one party was underage at the time of the wedding. The rules and applications for annulment can be very complicated, so it’s best to speak with an attorney to discuss your options.

Do I have a right to a jury trial in my divorce case?

No. If the case goes to trial, the judge will make the final determinations.

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