Residency Requirements and Grounds for Divorce
You or your spouse must be a resident of Tennessee for at least six months in order to file for divorce. The legal divorce process begins when one spouse files a complaint for divorce. The divorce papers must be filed in a county where either you or your spouse resides.
Tennessee has both no-fault and fault divorces. For a no fault divorce, there only needs to be a statement that there are irreconcilable differences within the marriage plus a showing that the spouses have been living apart for two years. However, you and your spouse must be in agreement about child custody, child support, division of the property and division of any debt. In an irreconcilable differences divorce there is a waiting period of 60 days from the date that the divorce complaint was filed (90 days if there are children).
The fault grounds include:
- Cruel and inhumane treatment
- Conviction of a felony accompanied by a sentence of confinement in the penitentiary
- Habitual drunkenness or abuse of narcotic drugs
If you and your spouse have children, you must each go to a parenting class. You also must each go to mediation and submit a parenting plan.
Dividing the Property
In Tennessee, assets and debts acquired during your marriage called “marital property” – will be divided “equitably” when you divorce. “Marital property” is all jointly owned property, other than separate property, acquired by either or both spouses during the marriage. “Separate property” is property owned prior to the marriage or property that was inherited or received as a gift. Separate property is retained by the owning spouse.
Examples of separate property:
- Assets you had before you married may be considered non-marital or separate property if you kept that property separated from property acquired during the marriage
- Income produced by a separate property investment may also be non-marital property, as long as it hasn’t been “commingled” – mixed together with marital property
- Property you inherit from your family during your marriage will generally be considered your own separate property if it was willed exclusively to you and you did not commingle it with marital property during the marriage.
In deciding how to divide the property owned by divorcing couples, judges will consider a number of factors, including:
- Length of the marriage
- Age, physical and mental health, vocational skills, employability, earning capacity, estate, financial liabilities and financial needs of each spouse
- Contribution by one spouse to the education, training or increased earning power of the other spouse
- Relative ability of each spouse for future acquisitions of capital assets and income
- Contribution of each spouse to the acquisition, preservation, appreciation, depreciation or dissipation of the marital or separate property, including the contribution of a party to the marriage as homemaker, wage earner or parent, with the contribution of a party as homemaker or wage earner to be given the same weight if each party has fulfilled its role
- Value of the separate property
- Estate of each spouse at the time of the marriage
- Economic circumstances of each spouse at the time the division of property is to become effective
- Tax consequences to each spouse
- Amount of social security benefits available to each spouse
It is important to collect all the information you can about all your property, including when you purchased it, approximately how much it is worth, and details such as account numbers, serial numbers and so forth. Collecting this information before you see a Tennessee divorce lawyer can save you a lot of time and money.
Alimony is a court ordered payment from one spouse to another for financial support. A court can order alimony to either party in Tennessee. In deciding the amount that should be paid, a court will generally consider such factors as:
- Relative earning capacity, obligations, needs, and financial resources of each spouse
- Relative education and training of each spouse
- Duration of the marriage
- Age and mental condition of each spouse
- Physical condition of each spouse
- Whether it is undesirable for spouse to seek outside employment because spouse will be custodian of a minor child
- Separate property of the spouses
- Distribution of the marital property
- Standard of living
- Contributions to the marriage
- Relative fault of each spouse
- Tax consequences of the award
A court can order temporary maintenance while the divorce is pending. The temporary order ends when the final judgment for divorce is entered.
The spouses may agree to make alimony nonmodifiable. If there is no agreement, maintenance may be modified only upon a showing of a “change in circumstances.” If alimony is not received at the time of the divorce, it cannot be obtained later.
Child Custody and Visitation
In Tennessee, the court will make child custody decisions based upon the “best interest” of the child. The court may award sole custody to one spouse or joint custody to the spouses or even custody to a third party. There is a presumption in favor of joint custody if both parents agree. The court considers all relevant factors including the following:
- Love, affection and emotional ties existing between the parents and child
- Disposition of the parents to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, education and other necessary care and the degree to which a parent has been the primary caregiver
- Importance of continuity in the child’s life and the length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment
- Stability of the family unit of the parents
- Mental and physical health of the parents
- Home, school, and community record of the child
- The reasonable preference of the child if 12 years of age or older
- Physical or emotional abuse to the child, to the other parent or to any other person
- Character and behavior of any other person who resides in or frequents the home of a parent
- Each parent’s past and potential for future performance of parenting responsibilities
The court may award either sole or shared custody if it is in the best interest of the child. If the court orders sole custody, it will usually award the non-custodial parent visitation rights to see the child.
After the custody order is signed by the judge and filed with the court clerk, both parents are bound by it. A “material change in circumstances” will justify a modification of a child custody order. The court will then consider the petition to modify custody using a best interests standard.
Tennessee courts will set visitation unless it would place your child in imminent danger of harm. The courts set holiday and special occasion visitation.
In Tennessee, child support is a percentage of the non-custodial parent’s income that is paid to assist with the support of that parent’s child or children. Support is generally ordered through the age of 18 years old or until the child is a high school graduate.
A Tennessee child support order can be modified if there has been a “significant variance” between the child support guideline amount and the current support order. Upon application for adjustment by either party, the court must increase or decrease child support in accordance with the guidelines unless the significant variance occurs due to a previous decision of the court to deviate from the guidelines and the circumstances which caused the deviation have not changed.
In Tennessee, the court will take into consideration the following primary factors when determining what custody arrangement is best for a child:
(a) the love, affection, and emotional ties between the parents and child;
(b) the importance of continuity and the length of time the child has lived in a stable and satisfactory environment;
(c) whether there has been any domestic violence or physical or mental abuse to the child, spouse, or any other person and whether a parent has had to relocate to avoid such violence;
(d) the stability of the family unit;
(e) the mental and physical health of the parents;
(f) the home, school, and community record of the child;
(g) the reasonable preference of a child over 12 years of age;
(h) the character and behavior of any person who lives in or visits the parent’s home and such person’s interactions with the child; and
(i) each parent’s past and potential performance of parenting duties, including a willingness and ability to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship with the other parent. (Tennessee Code – Volume 6A, Title 36, Sections 36-4-106)
In Tennessee, as with all other states, the court will always be looking out for the best interests of the children. What you want or your spouse wants is not really relevant until the court says it is. Many parents go to custody hearings not realizing that they must portray themselves as the best custodial parent rather pleading to the court that they simply deserve the children. The court would much prefer the parents to decide who should have custody, but if they can’t, the court will do it for them. You can also read more about Tennessee child custody in the Tennessee state statutes located at: http://18.104.22.168/tennessee/
||June 1, 1796
|Number of Counties
|State Population (2005)
|State Quarter Issue Date
||January 2, 2002
||423, 615, 731, 865, 901, 931
|Top 5 Cities (2000 population)
|* The city is is coextensive with Davidson County.
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NHL: Nashville Predators