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What Are Grounds for Divorce in Tennessee?

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What Are Grounds for Divorce?

When you ask the court to undo the matrimonial bonds you created when you were married, you must provide them with a reason why you wish to get divorced. This reason is known as the “grounds” for your divorce. Each state has different laws defining which reasons for divorce are considered legally valid. A knowledgeable Clarksville divorce lawyer can explain the legal grounds for divorce in Tennessee and how your chosen grounds may affect the divorce process and outcome.

Does Tennessee Law Require You to Prove Fault to Get a Divorce?

Since the 1970s, most states have enacted laws that allow couples to get divorced without needing to place blame on one partner for the dissolution of the marriage. When you do not need to provide a specific reason for your split, it is known as a no-fault divorce. Several states now solely give couples the option of no-fault divorce. 

The no-fault system can be beneficial because spouses do not need to bring their personal business in front of the court or provide proof of painful aspects of their marriage, such as one partner’s infidelity or impotence. It can lead to less acrimonious splits and can be helpful if you must cooperate with your spouse in the future, such as when co-parenting children.

While Tennessee law does provide some options for a no-fault divorce, it is not a pure no-fault divorce state. Getting a no-fault divorce is only possible in Tennessee if both you and your partner are agreeable to seeking a divorce or the two of you have lived apart for an extended time. Unfortunately, if your spouse chooses to contest your no-fault divorce, you may be forced to re-file the divorce using fault-based grounds to complete the dissolution of the marriage.

What Are the No-Fault Grounds for Divorce in Tennessee?

In a no-fault divorce, the spouse filing the divorce petition does not need to prove any wrongdoing on the part of their marriage partner. Instead, they can state that there has been an irretrievable breakdown in the marriage, and they wish to end the union. Tennessee law has two grounds for divorce that do not involve fault:

  • Irreconcilable differences: If the couple has reached a point where they can no longer continue being married due to disagreements that cannot be fixed, they may cite irreconcilable differences as the reason for their divorce. However, this can only be used if both parties are willing to agree in writing to the divorce. If one spouse objects, then different grounds must be used.
  • Two years of separation and no minor children: For couples with no children under the age of 18, another no-fault divorce option involves legally separating for two years and living in different residences. If you and your spouse have not reconciled after this time, you may file for divorce, and they cannot contest it.

How Can You Get a Fault-Based Divorce?

In a fault divorce, one spouse must prove that the other breached the marriage contract through a wrongful action. You must provide the court with sufficient evidence of the wrongdoing, and your spouse will have a chance to defend themselves from the accusations and prevent the divorce. Tennessee statutes describe 13 valid grounds for a fault-based divorce that would allow the wronged party to dissolve the marriage:

  • Abandoning, kicking out, or otherwise neglecting to provide for the spouse
  • Adultery
  • Attempted murder of the other spouse
  • Being pregnant at the time of the marriage with another’s child without the husband’s knowledge
  • Bigamy (being married to two people at once)
  • Conviction for a crime that makes the party infamous
  • Cruel and inhuman treatment or inappropriate marital conduct
  • Desertion without reasonable cause for at least one year
  • Engaging in habitual drunkenness or becoming addicted to drugs after getting married
  • Felony conviction resulting in prison time
  • Harming the spouse’s person
  • Refusing to move to Tennessee with their spouse, causing at least a two-year separation
  • Sterility or impotence

How Can Using Fault-Based Grounds Impact Your Divorce?

In most cases, a no-fault divorce is faster, cheaper, and less stressful than a fault divorce because it involves more cooperation and less litigation (if any). However, because Tennessee requires both partners to agree on the terms of a no-fault divorce, it may not be a viable option for every situation. Depending on the circumstances, a fault divorce may also be a better choice for some individuals because it can have far-reaching impacts on the terms of the divorce.

The allocation of fault does not affect how property is divided after a split, but the court does consider who was at fault when making decisions on alimony awards and child custody. For example, if a spouse committed adultery, they may receive a lower alimony award or no alimony. The evidence provided for a fault divorce could also play a role in the court’s ruling on child custody. Individuals who caused physical harm to their spouse or failed to provide for their family will likely find it difficult to get significant parenting time with their children.

How Can an Experienced Divorce Lawyer Assist You?

Determining the proper grounds for divorce in your circumstances and collecting evidence, when necessary, can be confusing and stressful. Some of Tennessee’s grounds for divorce are relatively archaic, and significant overlap between others can exist. A helpful divorce attorney from the Law Office of Hibbeler & Associates can assist you in evaluating your situation and goals so you can fully understand your options for moving forward. Whether you choose a no-fault or fault divorce, our law firm is here to support and guide you every step of the way. Contact our office today to schedule your free, no-obligation case evaluation at 931-236-2711.

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