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Family & Divorce FAQ

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Family & Divorce FAQ

+ How long do I have to live in Tennessee before I can get a divorce here?

You generally have to be domiciled in Tennessee at least six months before you can file for divorce.

+ If I moved out of the marital home to another state, where do I file for divorce?

You must be a resident of Tennessee for six months to file for divorce here. You can file for divorce in the county where you or your spouse lives.

+ What if my spouse lives in another state?

This is a complicated question that should be discussed with an attorney to help you make an informed decision on whether to file in Tennessee or the state where your spouse lives.

+ What about mediation?

We are able to do mediation for you at Johnston & Street, PLLC. Mediators recommend that each spouse review a settlement with independent counsel before signing. Mediation is beneficial with custody and visitation issues which is ongoing and can help the spouses maintain a relationship while successfully parenting their child or children.

+ What are the grounds for divorce in Tennessee?

In Tennessee, we have two types of divorces: uncontested, which is usually irreconcilable differences, and contested, which requires proof of grounds for divorce – in other words – one party is “at fault” or “responsible” for the parties’ divorce. The Grounds for a Contested Divorce 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 on 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.

+ What is a divorce going to cost me?

It is difficult to estimate the cost of a divorce. For some divorcing couples, the cost is minimal. For others, it is very expensive. Three big factors on the cost of divorce are; do you and your spouse agree; whether your spouse hires an attorney; and whether you have to go to trial.

+ Do I really need to hire an attorney?

You do not have to hire an attorney. However, it is strongly recommended you do. If you have children, a divorce will have a huge impact on your financial planning. You will need the help of a professional to fully understand all your rights and obligations.

+ Can I get alimony, or will I have to pay alimony to my spouse?

In Tennessee, there are several different types of alimony. The factors for determining alimony are:

  1. How much do you earn and how much do you need? One thing to keep in mind is income is calculated by including things like pension, profit sharing or retirement plans and all other sources
  2. The education and training of each party, the ability of each party to get education and training, and whether a party needs additional education and training to be able to earn a living;
  3. The length of the marriage;
  4. The age and mental condition of each party;
  5. The physical condition of each party, including but not limited to, whether one party has a disability or incapacity due to a disease or illness;
  6. Whether the parties value having one parent at home to raise children and are willing to financially make that possible;
  7. The personal property and real estate owned by each party.
  8. Considerations with regard to the marital property as defined in §36-4-121;
  9. The standard of living of the parties established during the marriage;
  10. What has each party contributed to the marriage? Has one spouse made it possible for the other spouse to be successful in their career?
  11. Is one party considered to be “responsible” for the divorce?
  12. Other factors including tax consequences.

+ Can I change my name at the time of divorce?

Yes. You may change your name at the time your divorce decree is entered. In fact, if you think you may want to change your name, this is the easiest time to change it.

+ Can I get an annulment in Tennessee?

If a marriage is annulled, the marriage is treated as if it never existed. It is rare to have a marriage that meets the requirement for annulment, but we are happy to discuss that option with you.

+ At any time can a parent change a minor child’s last name without the other parent’s permission?


+ Can a couple become legally married by living together as a man and wife for a certain period of time (common law marriage)?

Tennessee does not grant common law marriages. However, if a party is validly married in another state that permits common law marriage, Tennessee will recognize the marriage.

+When can I file for divorce in Tennessee?

You can file for divorce at any time in Tennessee. There is no waiting period in Tennessee.

+ When is my case going to be over?

In Tennessee, if divorcing spouses have minor children, a divorce cannot be granted for at least 90 days after the Complaint for Divorce is filed. This is referred to as a “cooling off” period. If the parties do not have minor children, a divorce can be granted 60 days after the Complaint for Divorce is filed.

+ Do I have to go to Court?

Not always. If the parties can reach an agreement on all issues, they will “settle”. A settlement can be reached between the parties by agreement or at mediation. If a settlement is reached, only one spouse will go to Court for the Final Hearing. If an agreement cannot be reached, the parties must go to Court.

+ At what point during the process can a spouse remarry or start dating?

You cannot remarry until after the divorce has been final for 30 days. After the final hearing, there is a 30-day appeal period. You should not get married until the expiration of this 30-day period. Some spouses start dating during separation but it is not recommended. You are married until the Judge approves the Final Divorce Decree. Dating during separation is still considered adultery under the law.

+ How is child support determined in Tennessee?

The State of Tennessee uses an “Income Shares” model for calculating child support payments. The “Income Shares” model requires the Court to review both parents’ incomes before setting child support. The calculation will also consider the cost of health insurance, child-care and other recurring expenses.