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Tennessee Divorce Laws
Residency and Filing Requirements:In order to file for a divorce in Tennessee, residency requirements must be met for the court to accept the case. If the court discovers it does not have jurisdictional rights to hear the case it will not be accepted or it will eventually be dismissed. The requirements are as follows:
The spouse filing for the divorce must be a resident of the state at the time the grounds for divorce took place. If the grounds took place outside the state of Tennessee, one of the spouses must be a resident for 6 months prior to filing. The divorce shall be filed in the county in which both spouses reside if they are both residents; or the county in which the respondent resides if he or she is a resident; or the county in which the petitioner resides. (Tennessee Code - Volume 6A, Title 36, Sections 36-4-104 and 36-4-105)
Grounds for Filing:The Petition for Divorce must declare the appropriate Tennessee grounds upon which the divorce is being sought. The appropriate lawful ground will be that which the parties agree upon and can substantiate, or that which the filing spouse desires to prove to the court. The divorce grounds are as follows:
A divorce will be granted by the Tennessee court upon the following grounds:
(1) irreconcilable differences if: [a] there has been no denial of this ground; [b] the spouses submit a properly signed marital dissolution agreement (see below under Simplified or Special Divorce Procedures); or [c] this grounds for divorce is combined with a general fault-based grounds or (2) living separate and apart without cohabitation for 2 years when there are no minor children.
(1) impotence; (2) adultery; (3) conviction of a felony and imprisonment; (4) alcoholism and/or drug addiction; (5) wife is pregnant by another at the time of marriage without husband's knowledge; (6) willful desertion for 1 year; (7) bigamy; (8) endangering the life of the spouse; (9) conviction of an infamous crime; (10) refusing to move to Tennessee with a spouse and willfully absenting oneself from a new residence for 2 years; (11) cruel and inhuman treatment or unsafe and improper marital conduct; (12) indignities that make the spouse's life intolerable; and (13) abandonment, neglect, or banning the spouse from the home. (Tennessee Code - Volume 6A, Title 36, Sections 36-4-101 and 36-4-103)
Filing Spouse Title:Petitioner. The Petitioner is the spouse who initiates the filing procedure with the family law or domestic relations court.
Non-Filing Spouse Title:Respondent. The Respondent is the spouse who does not file the initial divorce papers, but rather receives them by service.
Court Name:In the __________ Court of __________ County, Tennessee. This is the Tennessee court where the divorce will be filed. The court will assign a case number and have jurisdictional rights to facilitate and grant the orders concerning, but not limited to: property and debt division, support, custody, and visitation. The name of the court is clearly represented at the top of all documents that are filed.
Primary Documents:Petition for Divorce and Final Decree of Divorce. These are the essential documents needed to start and finalize a divorce according to Tennessee law. There are anywhere from ten to twenty other documents that may be required throughout the filing process.
Court Clerk's Title:Office of the Clerk of the County Circuit Court. The clerk or the clerk's assistants will be the people managing your paperwork with the court. The clerk's office will keep the parties and the lawyers informed throughout the process in regards to additional paperwork that is needed, further requirements, and hearing dates and times.
Property Distribution:Since Tennessee is an "equitable distribution" state, the marital property shall be divided in an equitable fashion. Equitable does not mean equal, but rather what is fair. The court will encourage the parties to reach a settlement on property and debt issues otherwise the court will declare the property award.
If the parties cannot stipulate to a property settlement, the court will distinguish between what is to be considered separate and marital property. Separate property will consist of the following: (1) acquired prior to marriage; (2) by gift or inheritance; (3) in exchange for any separate property, or (4) obtained from income or appreciation of separate property, if the other spouse did not contribute to the preservation and appreciation. The marital property will consist of the following: (1) any property acquired during the marriage by either spouse; (2) any increase in value of any property to which the spouses contributed to the upkeep and appreciation; and (3) any retirement benefits.
The marital property is divided by the court, without regard to any marital fault, and after a consideration of the following factors: (1) the contribution of each spouse to the acquisition, preservation, appreciation, or dissipation of the marital property, including the contribution of each spouse as homemaker, wage-earner, or parent; (2) the value of each spouse's property at the time of the marriage and at present; (3) the economic circumstances of each spouse at the time the division of property is to become effective; (4) the length of the marriage; (5) the age and health of the spouses; (6) the vocational skills of the spouses; (7) the liabilities and needs of each spouse and the opportunity of each for further acquisition of capital assets and income; (8) the Federal Income Tax consequences of the court's division of the property; (9) the present and potential earning capability of each spouse; (10) the tangible and intangible contributions made by 1 spouse to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other spouse; (11) the relative ability of each party for the future acquisition of capital and income; (12) the employability and earning capacity of the spouses; (13) any social security benefits; and (14) any other factors necessary to do equity and justice between the spouses. (Tennessee Code - Volume 6A, Title 36, Sections 36-4-121)
Spousal Support:Not all cases involve support from one spouse to the other. The obligation of one spouse to support the other financially for a temporary or permanent basis is decided on a case-by-case basis as agreed to by the parties or at the court's discretion.
The court will award spousal support on a temporary or permanent bases. Temporary support is viewed as rehabilitative support to the extent that it will provide the receiving spouse the ability to eventually support him or herself. A support order may be order to be paid through the clerk of the court depending upon the circumstances. The court will consider the following: (1) the value of any separate property and the value of the spouse's share of any marital property; (2) whether the spouse seeking alimony is the custodian of a child whose circumstances make it appropriate for that spouse not to seek outside employment; (3) the need for sufficient education and training to enable the spouse to find appropriate employment; (4) the standard of living during the marriage; (5) the duration of the marriage; (6) the comparative financial resources of the spouses, including their comparative earning abilities in the labor market and any retirement, pension, or profit-sharing benefits; (7) the needs and obligations of each spouse; (8) the tangible and intangible contributions of each spouse to the marriage, including services rendered in homemaking, childcare, and contributions to the education, earning capacity, and career-building of the other spouse; (9) the relative education and training of the spouses and the opportunity of each party to secure education and training; (10) the age of the spouses; (11) the physical and mental condition of the spouse; (12) the tax consequences to each spouse; (13) the usual occupation of the spouses during the marriage; (14) the vocational skills and employability of the spouse seeking alimony; (15) the conduct of the spouses during the marriage; and (16) any other factor the court deems just and equitable. (Tennessee Code - Volume 6A, Title 36, Sections 36-4-101)
Counseling or Mediation Requirements:If the court feels as though there is a possible chance of reconciliation, it will postpone any trial or hearing date and request the parties to attend mediation or counseling. In cases involving minor children, the court requires the parents to attend a parenting education class prior to the divorce being finalized. (Tennessee Code - Volume 6A, Title 36, Sections 36-4-126 and 36-4-130)
Child Custody:When minor children are involved in a divorce, the Tennessee courts will do everything possible to help lessen the emotional trauma the children may be experiencing. If the parents cannot come to an agreement regarding the issues involving the children, the court will establish the custody order at its discretion.
Each parent has the right to have custody of a child. If the parents cannot agree on the custody of a child, the court will award custody with the child's best interest in mind. The court will consider the following factors: (1) the love, affection, and emotional ties between the parents and child; (2) the importance of continuity and the length of time the child has lived in a stable and satisfactory environment; (3) 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; (4) the stability of the family unit; (5) the mental and physical health of the parents; (6) the home, school, and community record of the child; (7) the reasonable preference of a child over 12 years of age; (8) 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 (9) 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)
Child Support:Tennessee child support guidelines uses the Percentage of Income Formula which calculates the support obligation as a percentage of the income of the non-custodial parent who is obligated to support the child. This method simply applies a percentage to the income of the parent according to the number of children requiring support.
When to court is required to determine a child support obligation it will consider the following factors to determine the appropriate amount: (1) the financial resources of the child; (2) the standard of living the child would have enjoyed if the marriage had not been dissolved; (3) the physical and emotional conditions and educational needs of the child; (4) the financial resources, needs, and obligations of the parents; (5) the earning capacity of each parent; (6) the age and health of the child; (7) the monetary and non-monetary contributions of each parent to the well-being of the child; (8) any pension or retirement benefits of the parents; (9) whether the non-custodial parent's visitation is over 110 days per year or under 55 days per year; and (10) any other relevant factors.
The court may also require a that one parent be responsible for carrying health insurance coverage for the child as well as having the paying parent have a life insurance policy naming the child as a beneficiary should he she pre-decease the emancipation of the child.(Tennessee Code - Volume 6A, Title 36, Sections 36-4-101 and 36-4-501)
Copyright Notice:The above synopsis of Tennessee divorce laws is original material which is owned and copyrighted by Divorce Source, Inc. This material has been adapted from applicable state laws and unauthorized reproduction is prohibited. Violation of this notice will result in immediate legal action.
The grounds to file a complaint for a legal separation are the same as for a divorce. The court can address child custody, visitation, support, and property issues during legal separation upon motion by either party or by agreement of the parties. The court has the power to grant an absolute divorce to either party if there has been an order of legal separation for more than two years, the parties have not reconciled, and either party files a petition for an absolute divorce.
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