Grounds For Divorce

Tennessee has two types of divorces: uncontested, which is usually irreconcilable differences, and contested, which requires proof of grounds for divorce. In Tennessee, a divorce begins with the filing of a “Complaint”. Tennessee law requires that certain statistical information be disclosed in a Complaint for Divorce, including the full names of the parties, dates of birth, etc. When a Complaint is filed, a temporary set of injunctions will be issued automatically without independent judicial approval. These automatic injunctions are sometime referred to as “mandatory injunctions, and they prevent the sale or transfer of certain assets, prevents the dissipation of marital funds, and prohibit each party from threatening physical harm against the other and from harassing him or her. In a contested divorce, the parties cannot agree to a resolution of each of the issues before the Court, and those parties must go to trial, and an experienced Divorce Attorney Memphis, TN.  The first issue a Court must resolve is the grounds for divorce. Essentially, the Court must conclude which party is most at fault for the divorce and the reasons for such fault. Those grounds are:
  • Adultery;
  • Habitual drunkenness or abuse of narcotic drugs;
  • Living apart for two years with no minor children;
  • Inappropriate marital conduct;
  • Willful or malicious desertion for one full year without a reasonable cause;
  • Conviction of a felony;
  • Pregnancy of the wife by another before the marriage without the husband’s knowledge;
  • Refusal to move to Tennessee with your spouse and living apart for two years;
  • Malicious attempt upon the life of another;
  • Lack of reconciliation for two years after the entry of a decree of separate maintenance;
  • Impotency and sterility;
  • Bigamy; and
  • Abandonment or refusal or neglecting to provide for spouse although able to do so.
Additionally, the Court must equitably divide the marital estate, without taking into consideration each parties’ fault in the divorce. In a divorce action in Tennessee, only marital property and marital debt is divided; separate property is not. Property division is the term used by courts and lawyers for describing this process. Property division requires that all property be identified, classified, and valued. Tennessee is an “equitable distribution” state.  Once the Court has determined which property is marital, the Court will then equitably divide those assets and any debts. An equitable division does not always mean an equal division of property.  In other words, marital property will not always be divided 50/50.  Also, equitable division does not mean each party will receive a share of every piece of marital property. Sometimes a court will give an entire asset to one spouse, or the Court may require that certain assets be sold. A trial court will classify all property as either marital or separate. Generally, property acquired during the marriage is marital property. Separate property, also known as non-marital property, generally consists of all real and personal property owned before marriage, gifts, and inheritances. As stated above, only marital property is divided. Each spouse will keep his or her separate property. Under Tennessee law, the following factors are considered by the court in equitably dividing marital property:
  1. The duration of the marriage;
  2. The age, physical and mental health, vocational skills, employability, earning capacity, estate, financial liabilities and financial needs of each of the parties;
  3. The tangible or intangible contribution by one (1) party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other party;
  4. The relative ability of each party for future acquisitions of capital assets and income;
  5. The contribution of each party to the acquisition, preservation, appreciation, depreciation or dissipation of the marital or separate property, including the contribution of a party to the marriage as homemaker, wage earner or parent, with the contribution of a party as homemaker or wage earner to be given the same weight if each party has fulfilled its role; (who contributed more, who performed marital role more, and why)
  6. The value of the separate property of each party;
  7. The estate of each party at the time of the marriage;
  8. The economic circumstances of each party at the time the division of property is to become effective;
  9. The tax consequences to each party, costs associated with the reasonably foreseeable sale of the asset, and other reasonably foreseeable expenses associated with the asset;
  10. The amount of social security benefits available to each spouse; and
  11. Such other factors as are necessary to consider the equities between the parties.
Additionally, in certain scenarios the separate property of one party may become marital property. Be sure to discuss these issues with your divorce counsel to make sure you avoid creating marital assets that you intend on keeping separate. If during your marriage, you and your spouse had minor children or adopted children, and those children are still minors at the time of your divorce, then the Court will also need to establish a Permanent Parenting Plan, which takes into consideration Tennessee’s custody and visitation laws. For a discussion on custody disputes and what you can expect during custody litigation, consult the custody lawyers Memphis, TN at Patterson Bray. In addition to making custody determinations, including parenting schedule, decision making, and parental rights, the Court’s Permanent Parenting Plan Order will also include a child support calculation and obligation. For a discussion on the Court’s child support determination and what you can expect during child support litigation, consult the child support attorneys Memphis, TN trusts at Patterson Bray today. Finally, the remaining issue in any divorce that a Court will take into consideration, regardless of whether there are minor children or not, is whether the Court should award either party spousal support, also commonly known as alimony. The Court’s award of alimony can come in many forms, and many include the attorney fees you incurred in seeking a divorce. For a discussion on the Court alimony determination and what you can expect during divorce litigation, consult the divorce lawyer Memphis, TN at the office of Patterson Bray.
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