Divorce Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some of the most common questions which arise when someone is considering a divorce:

What are the grounds for divorce in Tennessee?
In Tennessee, there are two types of divorces: uncontested (usually irreconcilable differences), and contested, which requires proof of grounds for divorce.

The grounds for a contested divorce include:
  • Adultery,
  • Habitual drunkenness or drug abuse,
  • Inappropriate marital conduct,
  • Conviction of a felony,
  • Pregnancy of the wife by another before the marriage without the husband’s knowledge,
  • Willful or malicious desertion for one full year without a reasonable cause,
  • Inappropriate marital conduct,
  • Malicious attempt on the life of the spouse,
  • Impotence,
  • Bigamy, and
  • Abandonment.
How much does a divorce cost?
The cost of a divorce is difficult to estimate. For some, the cost is minimal and for others it is very expensive. The biggest factor is whether or not your spouse agrees to handle the situation as amicably as possible.

What if my spouse does not want the divorce?
If your spouse does not want the divorce you must prove the existence of one of the fault-based grounds listed above.

How is alimony determined?
In determining whether alimony is appropriate, and in determining the type, amount, and length of term, the court considers all relevant factors, including:
  • The relative earning capacity, obligations, needs, and financial resources of each party,
  • The relative education and training of each party,
  • The duration of the marriage,
  • The age and mental condition of each party,
  • The physical condition of each party,
  • The extent to which it would be undesirable for a party to seek employment outside the home because such party will be custodian of a minor child of the marriage,
  • The separate assets of each party,
  • The standard of living established during the marriage,
  • The extent to which each party has made such tangible and intangible contributions to the marriage as monetary and homemaker contributions, and tangible and intangible contributions by a party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other party,
  • The relative fault of the parties, and
  • Other factors, including tax consequences, which are necessary to consider the equities between the parties.
Can I change my name?
You may change your name at the time your divorce decree is entered. This would also be the easiest time to change it.

Can I change my child's last name?
You must have the other parent's permission prior to changing your child's name.

Can I get an annulment in Tennessee?
An annulled marriage is treated as if it never existed. Annulment is possible if the marriage is void or voidable. A marriage is void if either of the parties is already married or the parties are closely related by blood. A marriage is voidable if either party is under legal age, one or both parties lack the capacity to marry, or if one spouse fails to consent to the marriage.

When can I file for divorce in Tennessee?
You can file for divorce any time after marriage.

How long will the process take?
A petition for divorce on any ground must have been on file for 60 days before the divorce may be heard in court if the parties have no unmarried child under 18 years of age. It must have been on file at least 90 days before being heard if the parties have an unmarried child under 18 years of age. The 60-day or 90-day period begins to run on the date the divorce complaint is filed. These mandatory waiting periods are the minimums required and in reality the whole process can take anywhere from six months to two years depending on the situation.

Will I have to go to court?
The parties may be able to reach an agreement or settlement on all the issues. If a settlement is reached, only one spouse will go to court for the final hearing. If an agreement cannot be reached, both parties must go to court.

When can I remarry or begin dating?
After the final hearing there is a 30-day appeal period. You may not get married until the end of this 30-day period. It is recommended that you not begin dating until the judge approves the final divorce decree, as any dating during separation is considered adultery.

How long must I reside in Tennessee to file for divorce?
A divorce may be granted if either spouse has resided in Tennessee for six months preceding the filing of the Complaint for Divorce. However, if Tennessee has jurisdiction at the time the complaint is filed then Tennessee will maintain jurisdiction even if both spouses later move out of state.

What forms do I need to file for a divorce in Tennessee?
The forms needed to file for a divorce include the Complaint for Divorce, the Certificate of Divorce, and Summons.

Where must I file my divorce complaint?
You must file for divorce at your county’s courthouse.

How do I serve the divorce complaint?
A private process server or a sheriff’s deputy will serve the Complaint and Summons on your spouse. If your spouse signs a Waiver of Service of Process, he or she may be served by mail.

Does Tennessee recognize common law marriage?
Tennessee law does not grant common law marriages. However, if a party has a common law marriage that is recognized in another state, Tennessee will also recognize the marriage.

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