Divorce in Tennessee

Divorce in Tennessee | How to Get a Divorce & Process (Guide) 2023

It can be intimidating to go through the divorce process. Being forced to deal with the emotional and practical adjustments that come with dissolving a marriage is difficult enough without having to additionally understand a legal system that is likely alien to you. There are also frequently present financial worries to consider. However, you can discover the support you require and the answers to your queries concerning divorce in Tennessee.

How to File for Divorce in Tennessee

Whether you are pursuing an uncontested (agreed) divorce or a contentious divorce, the procedures you must follow in Tennessee vary depending on your type of divorce.

Couples agree on every aspect of an uncontested divorce in Tennessee, also known as an agreed divorce, right from the start. You do not need to establish your guilt or go through a trial. Together, you and your spouse fill out and submit all divorce paperwork. If you have children under 18, you might simultaneously complete and file the Marital Dissolution Agreement, the Divorce Complaint, and the Agreed Permanent Parenting Plan.

To initiate the divorce, inform the other spouse of the divorce, and address the issues that need to be resolved, a disputed divorce requires a longer process (or going to trial).

Requirements for a Divorce in Tennessee

Before getting a divorce in Tennessee, you must satisfy the following conditions:

Parents Name
Wages & Income
Non-Custodial Parent
Custodial Parent
  • Your divorce must be initiated for legitimate reasons, such as those outlined above, that are based on blame or no-fault.
  • Tennessee residency for at least six months prior to filing is required for at least one spouse.

You can petition for divorce right away after these conditions have been satisfied.

Grounds For Divorce In Tennessee

Tennessee’s divorce laws list the following reasons as grounds for divorce:

  • At the time of the marriage, either partner was or is biologically incapable of having children.
  • Either side has wed again while still legally wed to another person.
  • Adultery has been committed by both parties.
  • A party’s unjustified desertion or abandonment for a full year.
  • Being found guilty of a crime makes one’s side infamous.
  • Being found guilty of a crime and receiving a prison sentence.
  • Both parties have made attempts to murder the other.
  • Refusal by either party without good reason to bring their spouse to Tennessee and a two-year absence from Tennessee.
  • If either party regularly overindulges in alcohol or abuses drugs, and the habit develops after the marriage, it is a problem.
  • Unsuitable behavior in a marriage.
  • Providing a spouse with humiliation and leading them to withdraw as a result.
  • In addition to refusing to support the other spouse while in a position to do so, one spouse has abandoned or “put out of doors” the other.
  • Disputes that cannot be resolved.
  • There are no minor children involved, and the parties have failed to cohabit for a continuous period of at least two years.

Tennessee’s No-Fault Divorce Options

Tennessee differs from several other states in that it does not exclusively allow no-fault divorce. In a Tennessee divorce, marital misconduct like adultery, drug abuse, and neglect can all be considered. Two no-fault divorce options are available in the state, though:

  • Insurmountable differences;
  • No little children and two years of separation.

The spouses must concur, as shown in the pleadings, that there are serious marital issues that necessitate the divorce in order for the grounds of the irreconcilable differences for divorce to apply. If both spouses concur, there is no need for additional evidence.

The spouses must have been living apart for at least two years and have no minor children in order to qualify for the two years of separation with no children under the age of 18 ground.

Tennessee’s Fault-Based Divorce Options

The divorce is contested, and the party seeking the divorce must establish blame if neither spouse consents to the divorce. In Tennessee, a divorce can be granted on the grounds of fault if:

  • Impotence and sterility;
  • Bigamy;
  • Adultery;
  • Conviction of a felony;
  • Attempted murder;
  • Unjustifiably abandoning someone for a year out of the blue;
  • Being found guilty of a crime that brings disgrace;
  • A spouse’s refusal to relocate to Tennessee results in two years of living apart;
  • Without the husband’s knowledge, the wife was pregnant at the time of the marriage by a different man;
  • Habitual drinking or drug use (especially if it started after marriage);
  • Improper marital behavior is often characterized as cruel and inhumane treatment or behavior;
  • Humiliating treatment of a spouse; 
  • Reluctance or failure to provide for the spouse.

If the other spouse does not desire a divorce, it may be challenging to obtain one in Tennessee. The spouse requesting the divorce must acquire proof of the other spouse’s fault, such as eyewitness testimony, audio or video recordings, or financial records.

Inappropriate Marital Conduct

“Inappropriate marital conduct” is the most frequently cited grounds for a fault divorce. According to Tennessee law, what is “inappropriate marital conduct”? This is a “catch-all” phrase that could refer to anything, even something as straightforward as forgetting to take out the garbage. 

The phrase frequently causes people to become upset because they believe they are being accused of or blamed for something, but once again, this is only a general expression that is used in this circumstance. It empowers you to argue in front of a court and could imply anything literally.

Adultery by Either Party

What rules apply to infidelity in Tennessee divorces? The Tennessee court deems adultery to have occurred when a person engages in voluntary sexual activity with someone who is not their husband. 

In spite of Tennessee’s no-fault divorce law, if one spouse has an affair, the other spouse may still petition for divorce on that basis, stating the affair as a fault that has contributed to the breakdown of their marriage.

In a divorce, including fault, this may be used as a tactic to either request or reject alimony. A positive court decision will necessitate the production of adultery proof for any purpose. It is not necessary to prove that there was actual sexual activity; the proof can rely on circumstantial evidence indicating the opportunity and inclination to cheat.

It’s vital to understand that infidelity will only be taken into consideration when determining whether a fault divorce will be granted and how much alimony will be paid. It wouldn’t be taken into account when deciding how to divide the assets unless a significant amount of money was used to support someone else or otherwise pay for the affair.

Complete the Divorce Complaint

The Complaint for Divorce form must be filled out as the initial step in filing for divorce in Tennessee. This petition initiates the divorce procedure and informs the court of the actions you are asking it to do, such as dissolving the marriage, dividing the marital estate, and determining child custody and support.

You should be ready to offer details on the following while filling out the Complaint for Divorce:

  • The day and place of your wedding.
  • The day of your divorce.
  • The grounds for divorce are based on blame or lack thereof.
  • Your children under 18
  • assets and debts you have
  • Your financial and spending demands

Once you’ve finished filling out the Complaint for Divorce, go back and check your work to make sure everything is accurate and complete. The complaint must then be signed in front of a notary. Make at least two copies of the complaint that has been signed.

File the Forms

After that, deliver the original and copies of the divorce complaint to the clerk of court in your county for filing. As an alternative, you could file for divorce in the county where your husband resides or the one where you were residing at the time of your separation. This is the event that formally initiates the divorce.

A filing fee must be paid (if you cannot afford to pay the filing fee, you can file a Request to Postpone Filing Fees and Order). After that, the Clerk of Court will give your file a case number and issue a summons.

You must now serve your spouse with the Summons and the Complaint.

Serve Your Spouse

The summons and complaint can be served on your spouse yourself, or you can hire a process server or sheriff’s deputy to do it. Tennessee currently permits service by mail, but your spouse (or their lawyer) would need to agree to sign a Waiver of Service of Process to confirm that they got it.

Your spouse has 30 days from the date the complaint and summons were served to submit a response and counterclaim. If your spouse is serving in the military on active duty or on deployment, they have more time to reply.) Your spouse has the chance to accept or dispute what you have stated and to seek the court for what they desire in the Answer and Counter-Complaint.

Settlement or Discovery

Settlement negotiations are frequently the next stage in divorce proceedings. These discussions may be held solely between the spouses, between the spouses and their attorneys, or with the assistance of a mediator or other impartial third party.

Before or during settlement negotiations, discovery may occasionally take place. Sometimes it happens during settlement negotiations; other times, it happens after they fall short.

Information that is relevant to the case is exchanged and gathered during the discovery process. This can involve submitting written requests for admittance, papers, and information. There is a 30-day response deadline for all discovery requests. The spouses frequently, though, consent to exchanging discovery materials informally rather than through a formal judicial process.

Finding out about assets, income, accusations of responsibility (if any), debt, budgets, and other pertinent facts is the goal of discovery. It is employed in settlement talks and may be applied by the court to resolve matters like:

  • Grounds for divorce
  • Property division
  • Child custody and support
  • Alimony

Attend Parenting Class

Tennessee law stipulates that before a divorce may be finalized, divorcing parents must attend a four-hour parenting education class. The purpose of these workshops is to assist parents in gaining knowledge on how to co-parent and assist their kids following the divorce process. Reducing stress brought on by divorce for both parents and kids is the aim.

Different service providers, each with their own rates, offer classes. Depending on your income, several services provide sliding scale prices. Additionally, if parents are eligible, the fees may be eliminated.

Divorce Trial

A settlement can be reached in the majority of divorce cases in Tennessee without going to court, frequently through mediation. The spouses can maintain influence over the case’s result by choosing mediation over a trial, which is significantly more expensive.

Regrettably, some issues cannot be resolved through mediation, and a court trial is required. This can be an extremely costly and drawn-out process. Preparing the evidence is just one of the numerous pretrial procedures that must be followed. At the trial, the judge hears testimony and is ready to make a decision about the disputed matters in the case, which may include property division, child custody, child support, or alimony.

The spouses have 30 days to appeal the judge’s decision after the ruling is made.

How Much Does It Cost to File for Divorce in Tennessee?

Divorce can be very expensive. Depending on the jurisdiction, Tennessee filing costs range from $200 to $400. On its website, each county provides a list of its filing fees. Service fees (typically $75 or less), copy costs, and mediation fees are other associated expenses.

You can submit a Request to Postpone Filing Fees and Order if you are financially unable to pay. You can still be required to pay the filing fees at the conclusion of your divorce, even if your request is granted.

If you are being represented by a divorce lawyer, attorney’s fees are another aspect you need to take into account. Based on their level of expertise and geographic location, divorce attorneys charge different fees. (Divorce lawyers in major cities typically charge more than attorneys from other states.)

How Long Does It Take to Get Divorced in Tennessee?

Several variables affect how long a divorce takes. The easiest option to dissolve your marriage in Tennessee is through an agreed divorce, often known as an uncontested divorce.

Tennessee law still mandates what is commonly referred to as a “cooling off period,” which requires divorces without minor children to be on file for at least 60 days and divorces with minor children to be on file for at least 90 days before being finalized, even when the spouses are in complete agreement on everything. This rule has no exceptions.

Thus, 61 days after the divorce petition was submitted is the earliest a divorce that was mutually agreed upon can be granted. The availability of the court, however, also affects how long it actually takes.

Depending on how many issues must be resolved, a contentious divorce may take significantly longer. The average disputed divorce takes a year to complete from beginning to end.

Filing for Legal Separation in Tennessee

Tennesseans experiencing marital issues are not limited to seeking a divorce as a solution. For a variety of factors, including financial and religious ones, some couples opt to formally separate rather than get a divorce.

The procedure for requesting a legal separation in Tennessee is the same as the procedure for requesting a divorce; the parties are merely asking the court for a different marital “status.” The reasons for legal separation are identical to the reasons for divorce, including the fault-based and no-fault ones.

Without actually divorcing one another, legal separation allows couples to resolve and enforce issues related to property distribution, child custody and support, alimony, and other aspects of divorce.

One significant distinction is that legally separated spouses are not permitted to remarry lawfully. In contrast to divorce, they can also choose to end their separation and get back together.


In Tennessee, the filing procedure is quite simple. Other actions must be completed in order for a divorce in Tennessee to be finalized after the papers have been filed, paid for, and served.

At this stage, it is frequently advisable to see a divorce lawyer, especially if the opposing spouse is fighting the divorce. Divorces in Tennessee can be resolved pleasantly and without incident with the use of third-party mediation.


Is it better to be the first to file for divorce in Tennessee?

Yes, a majority of divorce cases are resolved. In a Tennessee divorce, if a trial is necessary, the spouse who filed first will also preside over it. This could be a major advantage for the party who is playing first, depending on the situation.

What is the first step in filing for divorce in Tennessee?

Filling out the Complaint for Divorce form is the first step in filing for divorce in Tennessee. This complaint initiates the divorce procedure and informs the court of your requests, including those to dissolve the marriage, divide the marital estate, and determine child custody and support.

Can I file for divorce on my own in Tennessee?

Although you are not needed to have legal representation when filing for divorce in Tennessee, it is advised that you consult with one at least once so that any potential concerns can be discussed.

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