The following is the text of Tennessee’s main statutes regarding divorce. For more specific information about divorce in Tennessee, please visit Herston on Tennessee Family Law. To schedule a consultation where you can discuss your specific situation, please do not hesitate to contact Mr. Herston.
Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-4-101 (“Grounds for Divorce from Bonds of Matrimony”)
(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.
(b) A complaint or petition for divorce on any ground for divorce listed in this section must have been on file for sixty (60) days before being heard if the parties have no unmarried child under eighteen (18) years of age, and must have been on file at least ninety (90) days before being heard if the parties have an unmarried child under eighteen (18) years of age. The sixty-day or ninety-day period shall commence on the date the complaint or petition is filed.
Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-4-103 (“Irreconcilable Differences”)
(a) (1) In all divorces sought because of irreconcilable differences between the parties, if the defendant is a nonresident, personal service may be effectuated by service upon the secretary of state pursuant to the provisions of § 20-2-215.
(2) In lieu of service of process, the defendant may enter into a written notarized marital dissolution agreement with plaintiff that makes specific reference to a pending divorce by a court and docket number, or states that the defendant is aware that one will be filed in this state and that the defendant waives further service and waives filing an answer to the complaint. Such waiver of service shall be valid for a period of one hundred eighty (180) days from the date the last party signs the agreement. The agreement may include the obligation and payment of alimony, in solido or in futuro, to either of the parties, any other provision of the law notwithstanding. The signing of such an agreement shall be in lieu of service of process for the period such waiver is valid and shall constitute a general appearance before the court and answer that shall give the court personal jurisdiction over the defendant, and constitute a default judgment for the purpose of granting a divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences.
(3) No divorce heretofore granted shall be invalid because the agreement was signed and notarized or acknowledged prior to filing under prior law before the action was filed.
(b) No divorce shall be granted on the ground of irreconcilable differences unless the court affirmatively finds in its decree that the parties have made adequate and sufficient provision by written agreement for the custody and maintenance of any children of that marriage and for the equitable settlement of any property rights between the parties. If the court does not affirmatively find that the agreement is sufficient or equitable, the cause shall be continued by the court to allow further disposition by the petitioner. If both parties are present at the hearing, they may, at that time, ratify any amendments the court may have to the agreement. The amended agreement shall then become a part of the decree. The agreement shall be incorporated in the decree or incorporated by reference, and such decree may be modified as other decrees for divorce.
(c) (1) Bills for divorce on the ground of irreconcilable differences must have been on file for sixty (60) days before being heard if the parties have no unmarried child under eighteen (18) years of age, and must have been on file at least ninety (90) days before being heard if the parties have an unmarried child under eighteen (18) years of age. The sixty-day or ninety-day period bills for divorce that must be on file shall commence on the date the original bill was filed and not on the date the bill was amended to include the ground of irreconcilable differences.
(2) A divorce decree or order issued prior to March 22, 1996, in which the hearing for such divorce occurred before the specified time periods required by this subsection (c), shall remain valid and the parties shall remain divorced. Likewise, all other issues resolved in the divorce decree, order or agreement, such as distribution of marital property, alimony, child support and custody, shall remain valid and in full force and effect.
(d) (1) A bill of complaint for divorce where the respondent has been personally served or acknowledged as set out in subsection (a), which includes the ground of irreconcilable differences, may be taken as confessed and a final decree entered thereon, as in other cases and without corroborative proof or testimony, the provisions of §§ 36-4-107 and §§ 36-4-114 to the contrary notwithstanding.
(2) For purposes of this section, “without corroborative proof or testimony” means that the petitioner shall not be required to testify as to the material facts constituting irreconcilable differences or any attempts to reconcile such differences.
(e) If there has been a contest or denial of the grounds of irreconcilable differences, no divorce shall be granted on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. However, a divorce may be granted on the grounds of irreconcilable differences where there has been a contest or denial, if a properly executed marital dissolution agreement is presented to the court.
(f) Irreconcilable differences may be asserted as a sole ground for divorce or as an alternate ground for divorce with any other cause for divorce set out in § 36-4-101 or § 36-4-102.
(g) Notwithstanding any law to the contrary requiring mediation, the filing with the court of a properly executed marital dissolution agreement and, if there are minor children of the marriage, a properly executed parenting plan shall serve to remove any requirement that the parties shall attend mediation. If the court does not approve either the marital dissolution agreement or the parenting plan, then any requirement to attend mediation shall be reinstated as of the date of the court’s rejection of either agreement.
Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-4-106 (“Contents of Petition for Divorce and Legal Separation”)
(a) (1) The complaint for divorce shall set forth the grounds for the divorce in substantially the language of § 36-4-101 or § 36-4-102, and pray only for a divorce from the defendant, or for a divorce and such other and further relief to which the complainant may think to be entitled. In cases wherein an answer is filed, the court shall, on motion of the defendant, require the complainant to file a bill of particulars, setting forth the facts relied on as grounds for the divorce, with reasonable certainty as to time and place.
(2) The complaint for legal separation shall set forth the grounds for legal separation in substantially the language of § 36-4-101, and pray for such further relief to which the complainant is entitled. In all cases where an answer is filed, the court shall, on motion of the defendant, require the complainant to file a bill of particulars, stating the facts relied on as a ground for legal separation, with reasonable certainty as to time and place.
(b) (1) The complainant shall also allege the full name of the husband, the full maiden name of the wife, their mailing addresses, dates and places of their birth, race or color of each spouse, number of previous marriages of each spouse, date and place of the marriage of the parties, the number of their children who are minors at the time of the filing of the complaint, and any other litigation concerning the custody of those children in this or any other state in which either party has participated, as specified in § 36-6-210 [repealed]. Further, at the time a complaint or pleading is filed under this part, the filing party shall, simultaneously with the initial complaint or pleading filed by that party, file with the clerk a separate document that contains the full names and social security numbers, current mailing addresses and dates of birth of the husband, the wife, and those of all children born of the marriage. The filing party shall provide to the clerk one (1) eight and one-half inch by eleven inch (8½² x 11²) envelope labeled with the names of the parties, which shall be marked with the docket number. The clerk shall file stamp the document and the envelope, store the document in the envelope, which shall be sealed, and place the sealed envelope in the case file. The social security numbers and other information filed with the clerk shall be available to the clerk of court for processing of documents and legal actions such as, but not limited to, divorce certificates, garnishments, and income assignments. On request, the sealed information shall be made available to the department of human services and any other agency required by law to have access to the information, and to other persons or agencies as ordered by the court. It shall be mandatory that every complaint filed under this chapter shall contain the foregoing information or that such information is provided by the parties and is contained in the court’s records as described above prior to the entry of the final decree of divorce, unless it can be shown to the satisfaction of the court that such information could not be obtained by the complainant or petitioner by exercising due diligence or after the court has granted a reasonable time to amend the complaint. In lieu of a mailing address, either party may designate an agent for the service of process throughout the proceedings and, except as provided in subdivision (b)(2), the name and address of such agent shall be the only address used for the designating party in all petitions, pleadings, motions and orders relating to such divorce action.
(2) If the complainant or the defendant shows to the satisfaction of the court in which the petition is filed that the residential address of the other party is relevant and necessary in order to prove the allegations contained in the complaint or to ascertain information necessary to determine value and/or ownership of property, or to ascertain other data necessary to evaluate and agree upon a property division or custody or defend against such allegations, the court may order either party to reveal such residential address to the other party.
(3) If the complainant elects to designate an agent for service of process in lieu of the mailing address as authorized by this subsection (b) but does not designate a specific person, the complainant’s attorney shall be deemed the complainant’s agent for service of process.
(c) Notwithstanding any other provision of the law to the contrary, the plaintiff or other party shall not be required in those counties having a divorce proctor to file an affidavit swearing that the defendant is not in the military service where:
(1) The complaint states facts that would make the defendant ineligible for military service; or
(2) The residence address of the defendant is set forth in the complaint, and:
(A) The defendant has been personally served with service of process, or has been mailed a copy of the complaint by a divorce proctor;
(B) The defendant has actual notice of the commencement of the suit;
(C) Proof of mailing to the defendant of notice of the suit is exhibited to the court; or
(D) The defendant is represented by an attorney.
(d) Upon the filing of a petition for divorce or legal separation, and upon personal service of the complaint and summons on the respondent or upon waiver and acceptance of service by the respondent, the following temporary injunctions shall be in effect against both parties until the final decree of divorce or order of legal separation is entered, the petition is dismissed, the parties reach agreement, or until the court modifies or dissolves the injunction, written notice of which shall be served with the complaint:
(1) (A) An injunction restraining and enjoining both parties from transferring, assigning, borrowing against, concealing or in any way dissipating or disposing, without the consent of the other party or an order of the court, of any marital property. Nothing herein is intended to preclude either of the parties from seeking broader injunctive relief from the court.
(B) Expenditures from current income to maintain the marital standard of living and the usual and ordinary costs of operating a business are not restricted by this injunction. Each party shall maintain records of all expenditures, copies of which shall be available to the other party upon request.
(2) An injunction restraining and enjoining both parties from voluntarily canceling, modifying, terminating, assigning, or allowing to lapse for nonpayment of premiums, any insurance policy, including, but not limited to, life, health, disability, homeowners, renters, and automobile, where such insurance policy provides coverage to either of the parties or the children, or that names either of the parties or the children as beneficiaries without the consent of the other party or an order of the court. “Modifying” includes any change in beneficiary status.
(3) An injunction restraining both parties from harassing, threatening, assaulting or abusing the other and from making disparaging remarks about the other to or in the presence of any children of the parties or to either party’s employer.
(4) An injunction restraining and enjoining both parties from hiding, destroying or spoiling, in whole or in part, any evidence electronically stored or on computer hard drives or other memory storage devices.
(5) An injunction restraining both parties from relocating any children of the parties outside the state of Tennessee, or more than one hundred (100) miles from the marital home, without the permission of the other party or an order of the court, except in the case of a removal based upon a well-founded fear of physical abuse against either the fleeing parent or the child. In such cases, upon request of the nonrelocating parent, the court will conduct an expedited hearing, by phone conference if appropriate, to determine the reasonableness of the relocation and to make such other orders as appropriate.
(6) The provisions of these injunctions shall be attached to the summons and the complaint and shall be served with the complaint. The injunctions shall become an order of the court upon fulfillment of the requirements of this subsection (d). However, nothing in this subsection (d) shall preclude either party from applying to the court for further temporary orders, an expanded temporary injunction, or modification or revocation of this temporary injunction.
(7) The temporary injunctions provided in this section shall only apply to the spousal parties named in the petition and shall not apply to any third party named in the petition; provided, however, that nothing in this subsection (d) shall preclude any party from applying to the court for an order of injunctive or extraordinary relief against any other party named in any petition as provided by law or rule.