In Tennessee grounds for divorce, couples often have a laundry list of problems and marital issues to battle over by the time divorce becomes a consideration. However, the state of Tennessee only recognizes 15 specific causes as justifiable to grant a divorce. A valid complaint for divorce should allege, and must prove, at least one of the following statutory grounds:
- Irreconcilable Differences. This occurs when both spouses have differences so severe that they cannot live together. Both parties must agree that irreconcilable differences have developed. If a spouse decides to contest the divorce and irreconcilable differences are the only grounds for divorce listed, the court cannot grant a divorce.
- Cruel and Inhuman Treatment / Inappropriate Marital Conduct. A wide range of conduct is covered under this statutory ground. Examples include physical violence, long-term abusive or profane language, degrading treatment, failure to provide a suitable home and clothing, attentions to persons of the opposite sex, and even abandoning the marriage bed.
- Adultery. Adultery is voluntary sexual intercourse with a party other than the spouse. The spouse seeking divorce must prove that the other spouse has both an inclination and an opportunity to commit adultery. A spouse is considered adulterous even if he or she engages in sexual relations following a separation. A spouse seeking divorce on the grounds of adultery must be able to prove that spouse’s chastity.
- Bigamy. Polygamy is not legal in Tennessee. If one spouse is already married and otherwise legally marries a second husband or wife, the second marriage is void from the beginning.
- Impotence and Inability to Procreate. The spouse’s impotency must have existed before the marriage and must be incurable. The inability to procreate alone is not sufficient grounds for divorce—the spouse must also be unable to have sexual intercourse.
- Desertion for One Year. The desertion must be malicious, intentional, or without reasonable cause. A good faith offering to return or insanity stops the year-long period required.
- Conviction of an Infamous Crime. “Infamous” crimes are designated by Tennessee statutory law. Examples include bribery, breaking into an outhouse, forgery, incest, larceny, horse stealing, rape, and destroying a will.
- Conviction of a Felony. The spouse must be convicted of a crime and sentenced to prison. Confinement in any state is considered a valid grounds for divorce.
- Attempt to Kill One’s Spouse. The attempt must be malicious or deliberate. Examples include poisoning one’s spouse or attempting to hit one’s spouse with a car.
- Refusal to Move. The court will grant a divorce to a spouse living in Tennessee if the other spouse intentionally refuses to move to Tennessee for two years. The spouse living outside Tennessee must have no valid reason to continue living outside of the state.
- Pregnancy. The wife must be pregnant by another man at the time of the marriage without the husband’s knowledge. If the husband engaged in sexual relations with the wife before the marriage, he cannot raise this defense— the court assumes he knew of his wife’s unchastity.
- Habitual Drunkenness or Abuse of Narcotic Drugs. The spouse seeking divorce must not have known about the drug or alcohol problem prior to the marriage. Frequent drunkenness is not enough. The seeking spouse must be able to prove habitual intoxication.
- Indignities. An “indignity” is the infliction of physical pain, or the attempt to inflict physical pain.
- Abandonment. Abandonment occurs when one spouse kicks the other spouse out of the home and refuses to provide support to the ousted spouse.
- Two Years Separation With No Minor Children. This is the only “true no-fault” grounds for divorce in Tennessee. Even if a spouse is found guilty of another type of marital misconduct and ordered to pay alimony to the other spouse, he may allege this ground to be released from fault.
If a party is found at fault for one of the statutory grounds of divorce, it may affect the division of marital assets and awards of custody and alimony. As always, a spouse filing for divorce should not lie to the court. Those caught making false claims or exaggerations in a complaint may be denied relief.