A Summary of Tennessee Divorce Laws

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Grounds for Divorce Under Tennessee Divorce Laws

Tennessee divorce laws permit no-fault divorces based on irreconcilable differences. Alternately, a divorce action may be filed based on any of the following grounds:

  1. Impotency
  2. Bigamy
  3. Adultery
  4. Desertion
  5. Conviction of a felony and sentence of imprisonment
  6. Conviction of an infamous crime
  7. One spouse tried to kill the other
  8. Pregnancy of the wife without the husband’s knowledge by a man other than the husband
  9. Physical cruelty
  10. Cruel and inhuman treatment
  11. Addiction to drugs or alcohol
  12. Abandonment

Residency Requirements

The plaintiff must be a resident of the state for at least 6 months prior to filing of the divorce petition. If the reason for divorce happened outside of the state of Tennessee, the plaintiff must be a resident of the state.

If the action took place outside of the state and the plaintiff resided outside of the state at the time, either the husband or the wife must have resided in the State of Tennessee for six months prior to filing for divorce.


You may file the petition for divorce in the county where you and your wife last shared a residence, where the defendant resides if a resident of Tennessee, or where the plaintiff resides if the defendant is a non-resident. 

Name of Court and Title of Action/Parties

An action for divorce filed in the State of Tennessee is filed in the Circuit or Chancery Court. The title of the action initiating the divorce is the Petition for Divorce, while the order granting the divorce is referred to as the Final Decree of Divorce. The party filing the action for divorce is called the Petitioner, and the other party is the Respondent. 

Legal Separation

Tennessee divorce laws permit a judgment of separation.

Waiting Period

Tennessee laws require that divorces filed on the grounds of irreconcilable differences have a 60-day waiting period between filing the petition and the court hearing if the parties have no minor children.

If the parties have minor children, Tennessee divorce laws require a 90-day waiting period between the filing of the petition and the hearing of the action in court.


The courts may award alimony to either spouse. Alimony may be periodic, lump sum, or rehabilitative. Some of the factors the court considers in determining the amount and term of alimony include:

  • The value of any separate property and the value of each party’s marital property
  • Whether the spouse seeking alimony is the custodian of a child whose circumstances are such that the spouse may be unable to seek employment
  • The need of the spouse seeking alimony to seek additional training or education to find appropriate employment
  • The standard of living established during the marriage
  • The duration of the marriage
  • The needs and obligations of each spouse
  • The comparative financial resources of each spouse
  • Any factor the court deems equitable and just

Distribution of Property

Tennessee is an equitable distribution state. This means that the court decides how to divide shared property after giving to each spouse what property originally belonged to him/her. The court will consider the following when dividing the marital property:

  • The duration of the marriage
  • The age, physical and mental health, vocational skills, employability, earning capacity, estate, financial liabilities and financial needs of the spouses
  • The tangible and intangible contributions of each spouse to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other
  • The relative ability of each party for future acquisitions of capital assets and income
  • The contributions of each party to the acquisition, preservation, appreciation, depreciation or dissipation of the marital or separate property
  • The value of each party’s separate property
  • Any other factors necessary to achieve an equitable distribution

Child Custody

Tennessee courts will decide the issue of custody based on what’s in the best interests of the child. First, the court will consider the preference of the child within reason. Additionally, joint custody is preferred unless there is cause to believe that one parent may be unfit. The courts will not give preference to one parent based on any presumptions that one parent is better suited to take care of the child.

When deciding the custody of the child, the court will consider all relevant factors including, but not limited to, the following:

  • The love, affection and emotional ties existing between the parents and child
  • The ability of the parents to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, education and other necessary care and the degree to which a parent has been the primary caregiver
  • The importance of continuity in the child’s life and the length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment

Child Support

In a divorce or legal separation, the court may order either or both parties to pay a reasonable amount necessary for the support of a child of the marriage.

The State of Tennessee has established child support guidelines to determine the right amount of support to be paid. The court may deviate from these guidelines only in outstanding circumstances wherein the set guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate.

Rights of the Non-Custodial Parent

  1. Unrestricted telephone conversations with the child at least twice a week at reasonable times and for reasonable duration
  2. Send mail to the child, which the other parent may not open or censor
  3. Receive notice and relevant information as soon as practicable but within twenty-four (24) hours of any event of hospitalization, major illness or death of the child
  4. Request directly from the child’s school copies of the child’s report cards, attendance records, names of teachers, class schedules, standardized test scores and any other records customarily made available to parents
  5. Access copies of the child’s medical, health or other treatment records directly from the physician or health care provider who provided such treatment or health care
  6. Freedom from derogatory remarks about you or your family by the other parent to or in the presence of the child.

Grandparents Rights 

In some cases, grandparents may be granted visitation rights by the court.


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