How long do you have to live in Tennessee to file for divorce?

How long do you have to live in Tennessee to file for divorce?

How long do you have to live in Tennessee to file for divorce?

How long do you have to live in Tennessee to file for divorce?

Six months as a general rule. To file for divorce in Tennessee, one or both spouses must have lived in the state for at least six months. Another way to satisfy the  jurisdictional requirement is with acts alleged in the divorce complaint that occured in Tennessee.  This prevents residents of other jurisdictions from filing for divorce in Tennessee when they have little or no authentic legal connection to the state. The question of jurisdiction initially lies with residency.

State law grants the court jurisdictional authority over the parties so it can hear their divorce case, enter interim and final orders, and dissolve the marriage by decree. But only when certain criteria are initially met regarding the parties’ residency. T.C.A. § 36-4-104.

What if the complaining spouse lives out-of-state? Or if one spouse resides in Tennessee, but not the other? Just consider the different circumstances that could follow a serious breakdown of the marriage. Fleeing to or from the state for safety is just one of those potential situations.

As when the marital misconduct forming the basis of the complaint occurred while living out-of-state is, but at the time the complaint is filed one or both spouses lived in Tennessee for six months immediately preceding filing. Jurisdictional issues can be very complicated and, with attorney assistance, should be clearly established before attempting to file a divorce. Although filing in the wrong state will result in dismissal without penalty, it causes delay and wastes family resources.

Domestic Violence Exception to Six-Month Residency Rule

An important exception to the residency rule applies when a serious incident occurs in Tennessee, such as domestic violence. Even when neither spouse has lived in Tennessee for the requisite six-month residency period, the abused spouse who moved to Tennessee may file for divorce despite presence in the state being less than six months when the complaint is filed. There is another important component of the residency rule.

Military Spouse’s Residency

When a spouse is a service member, the residency statute provides specifically that being stationed in Tennessee creates a presumption of residency. Active duty service members stationed in Tennessee for at least one year are presumed to be residents for purposes of divorce. That is not an absolute, though. This presumption may be overcome with clear and convincing evidence the service member is not a resident of the state.

Residency and Child’s Home State

The question of residency jurisdiction further complicated when one spouse moved to Tennessee without the other. That is especially so when the divorce involves a minor child. Jurisdictional challenges can arise over the court’s authority to make child custody determinations pursuant to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), T.C.A. § 36-6-201, et seq. The UCCJEA requires establishing home state jurisdiction over the child before the court has power to enter initial child custody orders. A parenting plan agreement between the spouses will not resolve the home state issue. The court’s jurisdiction over the child is not something well-intentioned parents are free to consent to. Talk to your lawyer.

Caveat: Strategic (or Legal) Reasons to File for Divorce in Another State

Even though a spouse who has resided in Tennessee for more than six months may file for divorce in Tennessee, there may be strategic or legal reasons to file for divorce in the state in which the other spouse resides.  Again, talk to your lawyer.

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