How to get divorced in Tennessee

Tags: Online Divorce, Tennessee

Image: Dave Allen / iStock

By Steffan Lawson

Published Jul 27, 2022

Requirements for divorce in Tennessee

  • Tennessee is both a “fault-based”, as well as a “no-fault” divorce state.

  • To file for divorce in Tennessee, either your spouse or you must have lived in the state for a minimum period of 6 months before you can file for divorce.

  • A no-fault divorce takes around 2-6 months to be finalized.

  • There’s a mandatory “cooling off” period:60 days after the filing of the divorce complaint, if the couple does not have kids.

  • 90 days after the filing of the divorce complaint, if the couple has kids.

Tennessee grounds for divorce

You can get an “agreed divorce” in Tennessee if your spouse and you meet some requirements. You can get an agreed divorce without the help of a lawyer and the requirements are:

  • If either your spouse or you have lived in Tennessee for a minimum period of 6 months or you lived in the state when deciding to file for divorce.

  • Your spouse and you have no minor kids, disabled children or children above 18 still in school.

  • Your wife is currently not pregnant.

  • Both spouses want to end the marriage.

  • Your spouse and you do not own any land, buildings, businesses or have retirement benefits together.

  • Your spouse and you agree on the property division, alimony, etc. and both of you will sign a Divorce Agreement, which is essentially a contract which settles all the issues pertaining to your divorce.

As per the Tennessee law, the grounds for a contested divorce are as below:

  • Adultery

  • Inappropriate marital conduct.

  • Addiction to alcohol or drugs.

  • Do not have children and are living apart for 2 years.

  • Convicted for a felony.

  • Pregnancy of the wife before marriage by another individual without the knowledge of the husband.

  • Malicious or willful desertion without any reasonable cause for a full 1 year.

  • Refusing to move to Tennessee along with your spouse and living separately for 2 years.

  • Attempt to murder.

  • Sterility and impotence.

  • Bigamy

  • No reconciliation between spouses 2 years after a decree of separate maintenance was entered.

  • Neglecting, refusing or abandonment to provide for the spouse despite having the means to do so.

Step 1: Starting your Tennessee divorce

Preparing the Documents

To file for divorce in Tennessee, you must fill out the necessary forms, which you can get on the Tennessee court website or you can also get hard copies from the local court. Some of the forms need to be signed by you or/and your spouse in front of the notary public. When the “plaintiff” files a “Petition for Divorce” or a “Divorce Complaint”, the divorce process begins in Tennessee. And, the other spouse is called the “defendant.”

Once the forms are completed and signed, take 2 (additional) copies of all documents. The original will be kept by the court, while one copy should be kept by you for your records and one copy to be given to your spouse.

Documents Needed for Filing for Divorce

You must complete the following forms:

  • Divorce Complaint: Filing this form with the court clerk in your county begins the divorce process.

  • Spouses’ Personal Information

  • Health Insurance Notice: This form determines the health insurance and who will/will not be covered by post the divorce. The form must be filled out by both spouses.

  • Divorce Agreement: (Marital Settlement Agreement): When both spouses have agreed on the division of the marital assets and debts, then this form should be filled out and signed.

  • Notice of Hearing: When the date for the divorce hearing is set, the plaintiff or the court must notify the defendant by completing and sending the form to him/her.

  • Court Order for Divorcing Spouses

  • Final Decree of Divorce: When this form is signed by the judge after hearing the case, it will complete the divorce.

Filing Your Forms

You must make 2 copies of all the documents and file them with the court clerk at the chancery or circuit court in your county along with the filing fee. When you file the divorce complaint and summons, then the divorce proceedings start.

If you cannot pay the filing fee, then you can file a Request to Postpone Filing Fees and Order and if this is approved, then you won’t have to pay the fee at the time of filing; however, you may have to pay the fee when your case ends. When you file your papers, the court clerk will give you a case number, which must be written on all the divorce documents.

Step 2: Serving your spouse

In case your spouse agrees, you can send the papers by mail; however, for this, your spouse must sign a “Waiver of Service”, which must be filed with the court. If you don’t know your spouse’s location, then you can publish a legal notice of your divorce in a newspaper that is selected by the court.

Step 3: Contested or uncontested Tennessee divorce?

Contested Divorce (Costly)

If your spouse and you do not agree on some or all of the issues pertaining to your divorce, then your case will go to trial, where it will be heard by a judge. The judge will hear all the witness testimonies, review all the evidence and then take decisions on the issues of your case. Usually, in the case of a contested divorce, you will have to employ the services of a divorce lawyer, who will fight the case on your behalf. Usually, contested divorces are drawn out, take a long time and are also quite expensive.

Uncontested Divorce (Least Costly)

In Tennessee, the option of uncontested divorce is available if your spouse and you don’t have children together. In addition, your spouse and you should not own any property, business of retirement benefits that require to be divided between both of you.

Usually, uncontested divorces are also known as simplified or agreed divorces as both spouses have an agreement on all the issues of the divorce, there are fewer forms to fill and the filing fees are also less compared to a traditional divorce.

And, to qualify for an uncontested divorce, your spouse and you must meet all the criteria that have been discussed earlier under “agreed divorces”. However, if your spouse and you are unable to agree on any of the issues regarding your divorce or if any of the criteria does not fit your case, then you will not qualify for an uncontested divorce in Tennessee.

Step 4: DIY or attorney?

DIY divorce (Slower & Least Expensive)

If you decide to go in for a DIY divorce without the assistance of a lawyer, then you can download the various forms needed to file for divorce on the Tennessee court website. The website also has a document that explains in details about how to go about seeking an “agreed divorce”, the criteria required and the process.

The documents that you must fill out depends on your individual situation; however, there are some standard forms for all types of divorces that you must fill. Both your spouse and you must also complete the “Divorce Agreement”, where you must mention how you will be dividing the property.

Online Divorce Services (Fast & Inexpensive)

There are several forms that must be filled out when you’re filing for divorce and the type of forms vary according to your situation. It is not very surprising that you can feel quite overwhelmed with the number of forms to be filled and there may be several legal terms that may have you completely confused.

In such a case, you can use the services of an online divorce service, who will identify the appropriate forms according to your personal situation, and will ensure that you fill out the right forms correctly. Our favorite service and the best reviewed is 3StepDivorce which we mentioned above.

You simply answer questions and the service will automatically fill out the correct forms and someone will review your paperwork to make sure that everything is good to go. By using these services, you will save time and money by avoiding mistakes that can cause delays in your divorce process.

All you need to do is print out the completed forms and file them with the appropriate courthouse. Online services can make things quite easy for you and they are much quicker and less expensive too.

Hire a Divorce Attorney (Expensive)

Your divorce case will go to trial and will be heard by a judge, if your spouse and you are not able to agree on the various issues regarding your divorce such as property and debt division, child custody and support, spousal support, etc.

Usually, divorce trials take a long time to be completed and can be very expensive too because you will have to hire a divorce lawyer who will present the case, evidence, witnesses, etc. on your behalf in court.

Step 5: Property, alimony, child support & custody

Property division

In a Tennessee divorce, only marital property is divided between the spouses, while separate property is not and Tennessee is an “equitable distribution” state, i.e. the court will divide the property classified as marital property equitably.

According to Tennessee law, each spouse will retain his/her separate property and while dividing the marital property, the court will consider the following factors:

  • Length of the marriage.

  • Age, mental and physical health, employability, vocational skills, earning capability, financial needs, liabilities and estate of each spouse.

  • Contribution, both tangible and intangible, of one spouse to the training, education or increased earning capability of the other spouse.

  • Ability of each spouse for future income and capital asset acquisition.

  • Contribution of each spouse to the acquisition, appreciation, preservation, dissipation or depreciation of both marital, as well as the separate property.

  • Separate property value of each spouse.

  • Estate of each spouse when they were married.

  • Economic situation of each spouse when the property division will be effective.

  • Tax implications to each spouse, costs related to the probable sale of the asset and other reasonable probable expenses related to the asset.

  • Social security benefits of each spouse.

  • Any other relevant factors.

When the court divides the property between spouses, it considers the separate property of each spouse. If the separate property of one spouse is significantly more. Then the other spouse is likely to get more of the marital property.

As per the Tennessee law, it is possible for the separate property or any appreciation of the property to become marital property if the spouse who does not own the property can prove that both the spouses had contributed substantially to the appreciation and preservation of that property.

Also, there are two ways by which separate property can become marital property in Tennessee, i.e. commingling and transmutation.


When separate property is mingled inseparably with marital property or with separate property belonging to the other spouse, commingling occurs.

If any separate property is considered as marital property, then the presumption arises that a gift of separate property has occurred to the marital estate.


When any separate property is treated in a way to offer evidence that it is marital, this is known as transmutation.


In Tennessee, there are 4 kinds of alimony – rehabilitative alimony, alimony in futuro, transitional alimony and alimony solido.

  • Rehabilitative Alimony: This is given to the spouse to help him/her rehabilitate himself/herself so that he/she can obtain job skills or return to school.

  • Alimony in Futuro: This is given in long-term marriages and can last until the death of the spouse or until the spouse remarries.

  • Transitional Alimony: This is given to the spouse who is economically disadvantaged to enable him/her to adjust after the divorce.

  • Alimony Solido: This is a type of property division.

You can discuss with your attorney about which kind of alimony is applicable to your divorce.

The court will consider the following factors when deciding the alimony to be paid:

  • Length of the marriage.

  • Age of each spouse and their mental and physical condition.

  • Earning capability, needs, obligations and financial resources of both spouses, including the retirement, pension or profit-sharing plans and other sources.

  • Education and training of each spouse, opportunity and ability of each spouse to get such training or education and the necessity of each spouse to get further training and education to increase the earning capacity.

  • How undesirable it is for the spouse seeking alimony to look for employment outside the home being the custodian of minor children.

  • Separate assets of each spouse – personal and real, intangible and tangible.

  • Division of marital property.

  • Standard of living maintained by both spouses while they were married.

  • Contributions of each spouse, both intangible and tangible, to the marriage and contribution of one spouse to the training, education or enhanced earning power of the other spouse.

  • Which of the spouses has more fault.

  • Any other relevant factors.

Child Custody

Our in-depth article on Tennessee child custody has everything parents need to know and helpful tips about navigating the custody process.

Step 6: Finalizing a divorce in Tennessee

Once the Request for Divorce is filed, you need to wait for 60 days before the divorce hearing is scheduled. If required, you must also complete the Notice of Hearing to Approve Irreconcilable Differences Divorce and send a copy of this to your spouse. However, if the waiting period is more than 180 days after the Divorce Agreement form was signed, then you will be required to file a new form.

On the scheduled date and time, you must make an appearance in court with the copies of all your forms. The presence of only the spouse who has filed for divorce is necessary, although it is better to have both spouses present.

You must answer the questions of the judge regarding your marriage, separation, etc. In the case that the divorce is approved but your spouse was not present, then you must mail the Divorce Order copy to him/her.

Once the Divorce Order is issued, both spouses have 30 days in which they can appeal the Divorce Order and so, you must wait until 30 days have passed before you can get remarried or buy a new property.

In Tennessee, a no-fault, uncontested divorce takes at least 60 days to be completed. If you have children, then the waiting period is around 90 days from the date that the Divorce Petition was filed. However, the time for the divorce to be finalized depends on when the final hearing is scheduled. Both your spouse and you must attend the divorce hearing and if all your forms have been filed properly and the Divorce Decree is reasonable, then the judge will sign it and your divorce will be final.