Grounds for Divorce

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Tennessee divorce grounds are governed by statute. Your divorce attorney will help you pick your grounds. There are numerous grounds for a contested divorce in Tennessee. The grounds are the same throughout the state, regardless of whether your contested divorce is in Nashville or Lebanon. You cannot have a contested divorce on the grounds of Irreconcilable Differences, which means Tennessee technically does not have a “no fault” divorce. However, you can agree to stipulate to the grounds for divorce prior to a trial, or simply that there are grounds for the divorce.

Written By: Nashville Divorce Attorney Morgan Smith

The Statute

The statute that lists the grounds for divorce is T.C.A. § 36-4-101. T.C.A. stands for “Tennessee Code Annotated” and is usually cited to in the divorce complaint. The most common grounds for contested divorce is “inappropriate marital conduct.” This is a catchall, and the actual facts that give rise to this ground are sometimes as minimal as staying out too late. The language for inappropriate marital conduct is that the actions of the other spouse renders cohabitation unsafe or improper. Sometimes, people who do not have a lawyer see this and think the other party is being horribly mean, but what they are really trying to do is plead grounds for the divorce in the least invasive way possible.

    The full language of 36-4-101:

2010 Tennessee Code
Title 36 – Domestic Relations
Chapter 4 – Divorce and Annulment
36-4-101 – Grounds for divorce from bonds of matrimony.

36-4-101. Grounds for divorce from bonds of matrimony.

(a) The following are causes of divorce from the bonds of matrimony:

(1) Either party, at the time of the contract, was and still is naturally impotent and incapable of procreation;

(2) Either party has knowingly entered into a second marriage, in violation of a previous marriage, still subsisting;

(3) Either party has committed adultery;

(4) Willful or malicious desertion or absence of either party, without a reasonable cause, for one (1) whole year;

(5) Being convicted of any crime that, by the laws of the state, renders the party infamous;

(6) Being convicted of a crime that, by the laws of the state, is declared to be a felony, and sentenced to confinement in the penitentiary;

(7) Either party has attempted the life of the other, by poison or any other means showing malice;

(8) 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;

(9) The woman was pregnant at the time of the marriage, by another person, without the knowledge of the husband;

(10) Habitual drunkenness or abuse of narcotic drugs of either party, when the spouse has contracted either such habit after marriage;

(11) 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;

(12) The husband or wife has offered such indignities to the spouse’s person as to render the spouse’s position intolerable, and thereby forced the spouse to withdraw;

(13) The husband or wife has abandoned the spouse or turned the spouse out of doors for no just cause, and has refused or neglected to provide for the spouse while having the ability to so provide;

(14) Irreconcilable differences between the parties; and

(15) For a continuous period of two (2) or more years that commenced prior to or after April 18, 1985, both parties have lived in separate residences, have not cohabited as man and wife during such period, and there are no minor children of the parties.

(b) A complaint or petition for divorce on any ground for divorce listed in this section must have been on file for sixty (60) days before being heard if the parties have no unmarried child under eighteen (18) years of age, and must have been on file at least ninety (90) days before being heard if the parties have an unmarried child under eighteen (18) years of age. The sixty-day or ninety-day period shall commence on the date the complaint or petition is filed.

[Code 1858, § 2448 (deriv. Acts 1819, ch. 20, § 2; 1835-1836, ch. 26, §§ 1, 2; 1841-1842, ch. 133, § 3; 1843-1844, ch. 176, § 1); Acts 1867-1868, ch. 63, § 1; 1867-1868, ch. 68, § 1; Shan., § 4201; mod. Code 1932, § 8426; Acts 1961, ch. 168, § 1; 1972, ch. 679, § 1; 1977, ch. 107, § 1; 1978, ch. 577, § 1; 1981, ch. 311, § 1; 1981, ch. 420, § 1; 1981, ch. 532, § 1; 1982, ch. 853, § 2; T.C.A. (orig. ed.), § 36-801(I); Acts 1985, ch. 178, § 1; 1989, ch. 393, § 1; 1998, ch. 1059, § 1; 2007, ch. 519, § 1.]

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Disclaimer:  This is not legal advice.  Although Attorney Morgan Smith is licensed in both Tennessee and the District of Columbia, family law is very state specific, and this information is based on Attorney Morgan Smith’s experience in Middle Tennessee, and specifically Nashville and Davidson County, Sumner County, Wilson County, Rutherford County, Williamson County, Cheatham County, and Robertson County.  If you have specific questions regarding your case, call the Law Office of Morgan Smith and Morgan will be happy to consult with you by phone at (615) 620-5848.