Is Tennessee a No Fault Divorce State?

Is Tennessee a No Fault Divorce State?

Is Tennessee a No Fault Divorce State?

Is Tennessee a No Fault Divorce State?

No, Tennessee is a not a no fault divorce state.  Grounds for divorce are required to be proven for a divorce to be granted unless both spouses agree to be divorced, all of the divorce terms are agreed to, and the court approves the divorce settlement terms.  Only then can a divorce be granted on “irreconcilable differences.”  An irreconcilable differences divorce means neither party is required to prove grounds.

Irreconcilable Differences in Tennessee Divorce Law: When No Fault is Required to be Proven

What are irreconcilable differences? In Tennessee divorce law, irreconcilable differences are the grounds (or reasons) alleged when spouses wholly agree their marriage is over. Only when the divorce is uncontested, or unchallenged by either party, can dissolution of marriage be granted on these grounds.

Uncontested Divorce in Tennessee

When the divorce is contested, irreconcilable differences cannot be alleged because there is no agreement between the spouses sufficient to support that allegation. This is why other grounds, such as inappropriate marital conduct, are often included in the complaint for divorce in the alternative, along with grounds of irreconcilable differences.

When the divorce is contested, the alternate fault-based grounds may keep the divorce action from being dismissed. The other fault-based grounds must be alleged – either in the complaint or in the defendant’s responsive pleading – and then proved with the judge making determinations after a divorce trial.

If There Is No Agreement, Proof of Grounds is Required for Divorce

If there is no agreement to divorce, at least one of the 15 grounds for divorce must be alleged and apply to the facts of the case for the court to grant the divorce.  Fault-based grounds must be alleged in the pleadings and proved with evidence. Only then will a Tennessee family law judge enter a decree dissolving the bonds of matrimony.

Other Tennessee Grounds for Divorce: When Fault Must Be Proven

In addition to irreconcilable differences and two years separation mentioned above, Tennessee law specifies the following grounds for divorce:

  • Impotence;
  • Bigamy;
  • Adultery;
  • Willful or malicious desertion for a year;
  • Conviction of an infamous crime;
  • Conviction of a felony crime;
  • Attempt on the other spouse’s life;
  • Refusal for two years to move and join the spouse in Tennessee;
  • Unbeknownst to the husband, wife was already pregnant by another man when the marriage took place;
  • Habitual drunkenness or abuse of drugs;
  • Cruel and inhuman treatment;
  • Indignities to the person forced the spouse to withdraw; and
  • Abandonment without support.  See T.C.A. § 36-4-101.

When one spouse is responsible for the breakdown of the marriage (although both spouses could be found at fault), that allocation of fault can influence how alimony is awarded and how child custody is determined. In Tennessee divorce, findings of marital fault can have broad consequences.

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