Divorce Basics

The divorce process can be exhausting and extremely difficult. The attorneys at Griffin & Davis, PLLC are adept at handling all aspects of property and debt distribution, custody determination, and other complex issues that arise throughout the duration of a divorce case. It is crucial for anyone considering a divorce to consult with an experienced divorce attorney before filing.

Filing For Divorce In Tennessee

When a party wants to file for divorce in Tennessee, they must first file a verified divorce complaint.  This complaint must be filed with a court in the appropriate jurisdiction. This complaint will ask for relief from the court regarding:

  • Dissolution of the marriage
  • Order for custody and visitation
  • Division of marital property
  • Award for alimony
  • Award for child support
  • Other specifically requested relief

Generally, relief not requested in a petition cannot be granted to a party once the divorce is final. The exception to this rule is child support.  Child support can be requested at any time before a child turns eighteen years of age.

Service Of Process

Typically, a Complaint for Divorce is filed where the spouses last resided together. If both spouses left the county, then the complaint can be filed in any county in Tennessee where at least one party to the marriage lives.

The summons and complaint must be served to the other spouse according to Tennessee Service of Process laws. Cases involving custody, the division of marital property, and any orders for financial payments, must be decided in a court that has jurisdiction over the property or children. It is important that you consult with an experienced attorney before serving your summons and complaint.  Doing so can help you avoid any future complications that may arise.

Residency Laws For Divorce In Tennessee

An individual must be a resident of the state of Tennessee for six months preceding the filing of a divorce petition unless they or their spouse are a member of the armed forces. Cases involving domestic violence or child abuse do not have to meet the six-month requirement before filing.

A party to a divorce is not required to be a U.S. citizen to file. However, they must be able to prove that they have lived in the state for at least six months. If a party relocates outside of Tennessee after separation, the divorce can be filed in either Tennessee or the new state.  This is so long as the relocated spouse meets residency requirements for their location. In any case, the location where the child lives is generally where the divorce and custody orders are filed and determined.

Grounds For Divorce

In Tennessee, spouses can file for a divorce based on either fault or no-fault grounds. Each divorce category must meet specific criteria for the divorce to be granted. Only one fault-based ground needs to be established in an at-fault divorce for it to be successful. No-fault divorces, which are also known as uncontested divorces, must include a completed settlement statement.  Such a statement shall determine all contested issues or the parties are required to move forward with an at-fault divorce.

Couples that have no children can file on the grounds of separation so long as they have lived apart for a minimum of two years. The spouses must have maintained two separate residences and not cohabitated as live-in spouses during any part of the two years preceding their filing.

Parties that are unable to agree on filing an uncontested divorce can file divorce under at-fault so long as they can prove one of the thirteen grounds considered for divorce.

Grounds For At-Fault Divorce

There are thirteen grounds for filing an at-fault divorce under Tennessee law. These include:

  • Adultery: Having an extramarital affair is a basis for a divorce under Tennessee law. This includes one-time “flings” or established relationships that occurred simultaneously to the marriage.
  • Bigamy: When a married party enters into a second marriage, they are considered a bigamist. The second marriage, as well as any that follow, are rendered void under Tennessee law.
  • Impotence: If a spouse is unable to have children at the time of marriage, it is grounds for divorce.
  • Abandonment: When a husband abandons his wife or kicks her out of the home, it is grounds for an at-fault divorce. Additionally, he must refuse to provide for her support.
  • Refusal to move to Tennessee: A spouse can file an at-fault divorce when one spouse refuses to relocate to Tennessee with their spouse for a period of two years or longer.
  • Desertion: When a spouse is willingly, maliciously, or unreasonably away from a spouse for over a
  • Infamous crime conviction: A party can file for divorce if their spouse was convicted of a crime such as rape, larceny, incest, horse theft, or forgery under Tennessee law.
  • Felony conviction: When a spouse is convicted, sentenced, and confined to prison for a felony crime, the remaining spouse can file an at-fault divorce against them.
  • A type of substance addiction: Individuals that use drugs or abuse alcohol can be successfully sued for divorce under Tennessee law, regardless of whether a spouse was aware of the addiction before the marriage.
  • Wife is pregnant by a man other than the husband: An undisclosed pregnancy is grounds for divorce in Tennessee. This occurs when the woman was pregnant with another man’s child and failed to notify her husband at the time of the marriage.
  • Endangering the life of the spouse: When a spouse attempts to kill the other, it is grounds for a divorce. Proof of a conviction is not required to obtain a divorce.
  • Cruel and inhuman treatment: These grounds are considered inappropriate marital conduct.  They broadly reflect a willful and persistent hostile marriage environment that is created by one spouse. This can be verbal or physical and includes numerous forms of cruelty. It is essentially a catch-all divorce ground in Tennessee.

The Waiting Period For Divorce In Tennessee

Every divorce case is dependent upon its own set of circumstances. For this reason, it is impossible to determine how long a divorce will take. Individuals that can agree to an uncontested divorce are generally granted a divorce in less than six months. In cases where parties are unable to cooperate, the process can take eighteen months or longer.

Reconciliation Period In Tennessee

Individuals are required to wait a minimum period before they can proceed with their divorce. Under Tennessee law, this period is either sixty or ninety days. The state of Tennessee encourages spouses to attempt reconciliation measures in support of marriage and their families. The cooling-off period is provided for spouses to seek counseling or think things over before proceeding. Additionally, spouses can take this time to ask the court to dismiss the case.

The quickest divorce process afforded under Tennessee law is sixty days. This scenario is only available to parties that have no-fault grounds for divorce, no minor children, and are willing to file an uncontested divorce.

A ninety-day-minimum requirement is afforded to no-fault divorces with children when there are no contested issues. Parties that seek a ninety-day divorce are required to agree upon custody arrangements, division of property, and any child support orders, mutually and uncontested.

After a divorce is finalized, parties are free to remarry. Although no minimum wait period is required, parties are often advised to wait for at least thirty days before entering into a new marriage.

Changing Your Legal Name After Divorce

Quite often, women change their last names when they marry. After a divorce is finalized, they can request the restoration of their maiden name. These requests are generally not denied. Parties can request their names to be changed during the divorce proceedings or by filing a separate petition after the divorce is finalized via a “Petition for Change of Name.”

Once a name change is granted, the woman is required to go to their local social security office with the order granting the name change or the divorce decree to update it.

Changing Your Child’s Last Name After Divorce

A parent is entitled to file a petition to change their child’s last name after a divorce is finalized. These petitions are not generally granted unless the petition clearly demonstrates that changing the child’s last name is in the child’s best interest.

Hiring A Divorce Attorney Will Help You With Your Case

Divorces are often overwhelming and include intricate details that make your head spin. It is imperative that each aspect of the divorce is addressed fully and entirely during the initial filing. Failure to address the division of any property, custody rights and visitation, as well as alimony and child support can have a detrimental impact on your ability to request or obtain these at a later time.

In order to protect all of the rights afforded to you under Tennessee law, it is very important that you work with an experienced divorce attorney. At Griffin & Davis, PLLC, we diligently work to provide our clients with the best service imaginable during every step of their divorce. Do not let the complicated legal system hold you back from a successful divorce process.  We directly service Sparta, Kingston, Crossville, and Cookeville with offices in each.  We also handle matters in the surrounding regions. Contact our law firm today at 931-837-2050 or 865-354-3333 to get started with your divorce.