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While no couple begins their marriage thinking of divorce, statistics show that this topic will impact nearly 13 % of all Tennessee marriages. (State of Tennessee, Department of Health, 2014).
Routinely I meet with one spouse that for various reasons would like to discuss the process of getting a divorce in Tennessee. While each county in Tennessee may have specific Rules and procedures for controlling the divorce process within the borders of that county, state law and statutes control the overall substance of divorce petitions and actions.
The first step in the divorce process, is to determine which Tennessee County has jurisdiction/venue to hear the divorce action. As detailed in Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-4-105(a), “The bill or petition may be filed in the proper name of the complainant, in the chancery or circuit court or other court having divorce jurisdiction, in the county where the parties reside at the time of their separation, or in which the defendant resides, if a resident of the state; but if the defendant is a nonresident of the state or a convict, then in the county where the applicant resides”.
A major component of the divorce petition is alleging an actual ground for divorce. Pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-4-101, (a) the following are causes of divorce from the bonds of matrimony:
(1) Either party, at the time of the contract, was and still is naturally impotent and incapable of procreation;
(2) Either party has knowingly entered into a second marriage, in violation of a previous marriage, still subsisting;
(3) Either party has committed adultery;
(4) Willful or malicious desertion or absence of either party, without a reasonable cause, for one (1) whole year;
(5) Being convicted of any crime that, by the laws of the state, renders the party infamous;
(6) Being convicted of a crime that, by the laws of the state, is declared to be a felony, and sentenced to confinement in the penitentiary;
(7) Either party has attempted the life of the other, by poison or any other means showing malice;
(8) Refusal, on the part of a spouse, to remove with that person’s spouse to this state, without a reasonable cause, and being willfully absent from the spouse residing in Tennessee for two (2) years;
(9) The woman was pregnant at the time of the marriage, by another person, without the knowledge of the husband;
(10) Habitual drunkenness or abuse of narcotic drugs of either party, when the spouse has contracted either such habit after marriage;
(11) The husband or wife 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;
(12) The husband or wife has offered such indignities to the spouse’s person as to render the spouse’s position intolerable, and thereby forced the spouse to withdraw;
(13) The husband or wife has abandoned the spouse or turned the spouse out of doors for no just cause, and has refused or neglected to provide for the spouse while having the ability to so provide;
(14) Irreconcilable differences between the parties; and
(15) For a continuous period of two (2) or more years that commenced prior to or after April 18, 1985, both parties have lived in separate residences, have not cohabited as man and wife during such period, and there are no minor children of the parties.
The most common ground alleged in divorce petitions, is known as “Irreconcilable Differences”. This ground is the only “uncontested” ground available in Tennessee. Proceeding on this ground requires the parties to come to a 100% agreement to all issues (division of assets/debts, alimony, parenting schedule, etc.). Should the parties be unable to come to a total agreement, a contested ground would also need to be included in the divorce complaint. It is extremely important to seek legal counsel at the beginning of this process in order to adequately prepare the legal documents necessary throughout this process.
A question that is often asked, relates to the length of time until a divorce can be granted. This can be a difficult question to answer. If the parties do not have minor children (under the age of 18), the divorce petition must be on file at least sixty (60) days before a Judge can grant a divorce. Should the parties have minor children (under the age of 18), the divorce petition must be on file at least ninety (90) days before the divorce can be finalized. Obviously, these dates are minimum timeframes and it is possible that a case could be pending for years depending on the situation before being concluded.
If you are considering divorce, or separation from your spouse, and would like to schedule a free initial consultation, please call our office at (615) 956-7938 and allow our attorneys and staff to help you through this difficult time.