What Is A No-Fault Divorce In Tennessee?

Tennessee allows couples to divorce based on the no-fault ground of “irreconcilable differences.” This is often shorthand for marriage simply not working out, though it was no one’s fault in particular. However, you and your spouse must agree in order to use this ground – if you cannot agree, the divorce then becomes contested.

In order to qualify for a no-fault divorce, you and your spouse must also be able to come to an agreement (or at least be near one) on things like child custody, alimony, and distribution of marital assets. No-fault divorce becomes a “fault” divorce if anything is contested, because then by definition, there is a dispute, and disputes involve fault. Under the law, the couple must have lived apart and separate for at least two years before a divorce will be granted.

What is a fault divorce?

As a Memphis TN divorce lawyer can explain, a spouse who files for divorce based on certain grounds must prove those grounds unilaterally before a judge, and then the court will issue a decision regarding the couple’s dispute. Contested divorces usually happen when there is a bone of contention between the spouses, such as child custody or the ownership of a certain asset, but it can happen on several other grounds. Adultery is perhaps the most common, but there are eight others that appear. They are: 

  •   “Natural” impotence
  •   Bigamy – one party was already married to a living spouse
  •   Cruel and inhuman treatment
  •   Alcohol abuse (or drug addiction) for at least two years
  •   Abandonment for one year or more
  •   Adultery
  •   Felony conviction with a prison sentence
  •   Attempted murder of the spouse

Does the court consider the “fault” when dividing up the marital estate?

Any of these grounds is enough for the wronged spouse to unilaterally file for divorce. However, they must be prepared to establish the truth of their accusation. Even if your spouse openly admits, for example, being a bigamist or an adulterer, you must still submit proof to the court that substantiates your statements. Also, it is important to remember that regardless of whether or not misconduct is proven in court, the marital assets will be divided in an equitable fashion – in other words, even if you prove that your spouse did something wrong, the court will not ‘punish’ them for it in terms of their share of the marital estate. Fault can affect things like child custody, but not asset distribution, as a general rule.

If you are considering a divorce, contact a Memphis TN divorce lawyer from Patterson Bray PLLC to find out what your legal options may be.

Historically, when a couple decided to divorce, they were required to establish whose fault the estrangement was. Many states still retain this structure, including Tennessee, but a simpler way to divorce has since taken root: the no-fault divorce, wherein no one need admit any kind of dirty laundry into a court record. Some people still choose to cite grounds for their divorce, and some prefer the ease of a no-fault system. There are positives and negatives to each. The following is a brief overview. A divorce lawyer in Memphis, TN can answer questions specific to your situation.

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