Grounds for Divorce in Tennessee FAQs

Tennessee divorce grounds answers to frequently asked questions on grounds for divorce, absolute divorce, inappropriate marital conduct, domestic violence, defenses to grounds for divorce, no fault grounds, irreconcilable differences divorce, fault, fault grounds for divorce, marital misconduct, proving fault, and adultery.

What are grounds for divorce in Tennessee?

Proving grounds for divorce is required if a spouse wants a divorce and the parties are unable to agree upon a divorce settlement. If the spouses agree to the settlement terms, the divorce can be granted to one or both parties on the grounds of irreconcilable differences (a no fault divorce). If the spouses cannot agree to settlement terms, one or both parties will be required to prove grounds for divorce.

What are the grounds for absolute divorce in Tennessee?

An “absolute divorce” is what almost everyone means when describing a Tennessee divorce. Another type of divorce is “divorce from bed and board,” also called legal separation. Grounds must be proven or agreed upon. Grounds for absolute divorce include the following:

  • Either party, at the time of the contract, was and still is naturally impotent and incapable of procreation;
  • Either party has knowingly entered into a second marriage, in violation of a previous marriage, still subsisting;
  • Either party has committed adultery;
  • Willful or malicious desertion or absence of either party, without a reasonable cause, for one (1) whole year;
  • Being convicted of any crime which, by the laws of the state, renders the party infamous;
  • Being convicted of a crime which, by the laws of the state, is declared to be a felony, and sentenced to confinement in the penitentiary;
  • Either party has attempted the life of the other, by poison or any other means showing malice;
  • 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;
  • The wife was pregnant at the time of the marriage, by another person, without the knowledge of the husband;
  • Habitual drunkenness or abuse of narcotic drugs by either party, when the spouse has contracted either such habit after marriage;
  • Irreconcilable differences between the parties;
  • For a continuous period of two (2) or more years which commenced prior to or after April 18, 1985, both parties have lived in separate residences, the parties have not cohabitated as man and wife during such period, and there are no minor children of the parties;
  • 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;
  • The husband has offered such indignities to the wife’s person as to render the wife’s condition intolerable, and thereby forced the wife to withdraw; and,
  • The husband has abandoned the wife, or turned the wife out of doors, and refused or neglected to provide for the wife.

What does inappropriate marital conduct mean in divorce in Tennessee?

Inappropriate marital conduct is the willful and persistent infliction of unnecessary suffering on a spouse. The range of marital conduct considered inappropriate is wide. Physical abuse is a clear example of inappropriate marital conduct. Inappropriate marital conduct can also include mental abuse or other lesser conduct. For more information, see Inappropriate Marital Conduct in Tennessee Divorce Law: Browbeating, Bullying, and Abnormal Sex.

What does it mean if my spouse listed inappropriate marital conduct in the divorce complaint in Tennessee?

Even though a complaint for divorce (also called a petition for dissolution of marriage) may allege the other spouse committed inappropriate marital conduct as grounds for divorce, that does not necessarily mean that grounds or fault for the end of the marriage will become a central issue in the case or even that the divorce will be contested. There are technical legal reasons for including certain allegations and requests for relief in the complaint for divorce, reasons which may or may not be likely to be proven or awarded by a court. Inappropriate marital conduct is the most common fault-based ground for divorce listed in divorce complaints. Inappropriate marital conduct means the same as cruel and inhuman treatment, but the proof required is not necessarily as severe as it sounds. If the parties agree to the divorce and settle, in a vast majority of cases the divorce will be granted to one or both parties on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. A divorce granted on irreconcilable differences means the legal cause for the divorce need not be proven (this is also referred to as a no-fault divorce). Most divorces are granted on irreconcilable differences. If your divorce does not settle and there is a trial, then inappropriate marital conduct or some other grounds for divorce must be proved or stipulated to.

What should I do if I am a victim of domestic violence?

Ask for help. In Shelby County, Tennessee (for example, Memphis, Germantown, Collierville, Bartlett), contact the Family Safety Center of Memphis & Shelby County, TN. Also consider these additional references:

Does domestic violence and physical abuse constitute inappropriate marital conduct as grounds for divorce in Tennessee?


What are defenses to grounds for Tennessee divorce?

There are three defenses to grounds of adultery: recrimination, condonation, and connivance. There are two defenses to inappropriate marital conduct: insanity and justifiable cause. For more details, see Defenses to Divorce in Tennessee | Adulterous and Cruel Without Fault.

What if my spouse wants a divorce and I don’t?

Start with counseling. See our Memphis Tennessee Marriage & Divorce Counselors & Therapists Directory.  Speak to your pastor, priest, or rabbi. Get advice from people you trust and respect. Almost all experienced family law attorneys recommend against fighting the divorce through the legal process to avoid divorce. That is because of the emotional toll a fight can take on everyone involved. Tennessee, if there is no settlement agreement, then fault based grounds must be proven and, accordingly, ruled legally sufficient by the trial judge before the divorce can be granted.

What if my spouse doesn’t want a divorce?

Talk to your lawyer about your legal options. Every situation is unique.


No Fault Divorce in Tennessee

What is a no fault divorce in Tennessee?

A no-fault divorce requires no proof, or evidence, that a spouse is entitled to a divorce. In Tennessee, this is called an irreconcilable divorce. In order to qualify for an irreconcilable divorce, the parties must settle all aspects of their divorce. When there are children, the settlement must include a permanent parenting plan and child support worksheets, both of which are approved by the court and entered as a court order.

What are the no fault grounds for divorce in Tennessee?

A no-fault divorce does not require that grounds be proven to the court, but it does require that both parties agree to all aspects of the divorce. If both parties agree, then the divorce will be granted on grounds of irreconcilable differences.


Irreconcilable Differences Divorce in Tennessee

What does irreconcilable differences mean in a Tennessee divorce?

Irreconcilable differences means, first, that the spouses have agreed to all of the settlement terms and, second, that fault need not be proven by either of them to be divorced. In Tennessee, most settled divorced are granted to one or both parties on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. To learn more, see Irreconcilable Differences Divorce in Tennessee.


Tennessee Fault Divorce

What is an at fault divorce in Tennessee?

At fault divorce means the legal basis for granting divorce is something other than a no-fault divorce (irreconcilable differences). Divorcing parties can agree to a spouse being granted either a fault-based divorce, such as inappropriate marital conduct or adultery; or a no-fault based divorce, such as irreconcilable differences. For more information, see At Fault Divorce in Tennessee.

What are fault grounds for divorce in Tennessee?

It’s the same as grounds for absolute divorce in Tennessee listed above.

What is marital misconduct in Tennessee?

In general, marital misconduct can describe grounds for divorce or, with alimony factors, fault for the end of the marriage.

How do I prove fault for divorce in Tennessee?

Fault for divorce in Tennessee is proven through the introduction of evidence at a hearing or at trial. Evidence can include testimony from witnesses or documentation.


Adultery in Tennessee Divorce

What is considered adultery in divorce in Tennessee?

Adultery is having marital relations with another person other than your spouse. In Tennessee, adultery must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence. The court can find adultery occurred even when there is no admission of relations or sexual contact, or no physical evidence of relations or sexual contact. For example, if two unmarried persons spend the night together in a hotel room, but do not admit to having sexual relations, then that may be enough for a judge to find legal grounds of adultery. For more discussion, see How Much Can An Extramarital Affair Cost Under Tennessee Divorce Laws?

How does the state of Tennessee define adultery?

Adultery includes sexual relations with anyone other than your spouse prior to divorce. This includes sexual relations after separation. Adultery in Tennessee can be proven by circumstantial evidence, such as desire and opportunity.

Is adultery a crime in Tennessee?


What does infidelity in Tennessee divorce mean?

Infidelity in Tennessee divorce means the same thing as adultery.

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