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Tennessee divorce: fault versus no fault

Tennessee divorce: fault versus no fault

In Tennessee, as in all other states, state law determines whether one spouse must file for divorce stating specific grounds; i.e., bad behavior on the part of the other spouse, for the divorce or whether the parties can simply file for an uncontested divorce based on irreconcilable differences. As a recent article in the Lincoln Memorial University Law Review points out, originally all states required “fault” in order to obtain a divorce.

Beginning in the 1960s, however, states began liberalizing their divorce laws. California was the first state to go to a completely no fault system.

Tennessee divorce laws explains that Tennessee has chosen to remain a hybrid state, providing for both fault and no fault divorces. Couples with no minor children  can file for a no fault divorce after a two-year period of separation. But couples with minor children are still required to state grounds for divorce such as the following:

  • Adultery
  • Cruelty
  • Desertion for one year
  • Absence from Tennessee for two years
  • Addiction to alcohol or drugs
  • Conviction of certain crimes, particularly felonies

Other grounds exist as well, including nonresolution of a previous marriage (bigamy); impotency on the part of the husband; and pregnancy of the wife by another man at the time of the marriage, which pregnancy was unknown by the husband.

Residency requirements

There is no specific residency requirement for obtaining a divorce in Tennessee, assuming the bad acts constituting the grounds were committed while the plaintiff was a resident of this state. If the acts were committed in another state, the plaintiff must have resided in Tennessee for six months prior to filing for divorce. If, however, one of the spouses is in the military and the bad acts occurred in another state, the plaintiff must have resided in Tennessee for one year before filing for divorce.

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