fault based divorce

What to Know About Fault-Based Divorce in Tennessee

When you’ve decided that your marriage is over, it’s essential to understand the decisions you will have to make during the divorce process in Tennessee to ensure that you are making informed decisions during this difficult time. One of the first decisions you must make is whether to file a fault or no-fault divorce.

Filing for a no-fault divorce means neither party is responsible for the marriage’s breakup. Each spouse will move forward after the divorce without holding the other party accountable. These types of divorce are typically much faster and less expensive.

The other option is a fault-based divorce. While many states do not allow fault-based divorces, Tennessee is one of fifteen states in the United States that would enable it. This article will discuss fault-based divorce and the grounds for it in Tennessee.

What is a Fault-Based Divorce in Tennessee?

A fault-based divorce places the blame on one of the parties. In this type of divorce, a judge considers the “fault” of one of the spouses and can hold them financially accountable for the divorce.

The fault doesn’t impact how marital debt or property is divided. Instead, the spouse found “at fault” for the divorce will likely be ordered to pay more in alimony, and child custody may be affected.

Grounds for a Fault-Based Divorce in Tennessee

The grounds for divorce tell the court why you want to get a divorce. You must list the grounds for divorce in your divorce complaint. There are thirteen fault-based grounds for divorce in Tennessee. (Tennessee Code § 36-4-101 (2021))

1. Impotence

The inability to procreate is, in fact, grounds for an at-fault divorce. The impotence must be permanent and incurable.

2. Adultery

Adultery is one of the most common grounds for a fault-based divorce. Adultery claims must be substantiated by evidence such as pictures, videos, or witness statements. However, if you have agreed to the affair, you cannot use adultery as grounds for a fault-based divorce.

3. Bigamy

Tennessee law prohibits being married to more than one person. If you try to get married to a second person while you’re still married, the second marriage will be considered void.

4. Being Convicted of an Infamous Crime

An “infamous” crime deprives you of rights such as voting, citizenship, holding public office, owning a firearm, etc. Examples of infamous crimes can include:

  • Incest
  • Rape
  • Forgery
  • Larceny 

5. Pregnant By Someone Other Than Spouse

The wife may be accused of fault for the marriage’s end if she was pregnant with another man’s child when the couple married. This is only applicable if the husband was unaware of the pregnancy at the time of the marriage.

6. Substance Abuse

Substance abuse includes improperly using narcotics as well as alcoholism. However, if you knew about the substance abuse issue before getting married, this would not qualify as grounds for an at-fault divorce. 

7. Desertion

It is considered desertion if a spouse willfully abandons their spouse for two years or more. There can be no communication during this timeframe to be considered desertion.

8. Refusal to Move

Refusing to move to a different state with your spouse is grounds for a fault-based divorce. Without a reasonable cause for refusing to move, you have two years from the date of your marriage to move in with your spouse.

9. Long-Term Separation

Long-term separation is defined as being separated for over two years, not having any children, and have not cohabitated during that time. This grounds for divorce can also be used to get a no-fault divorce.

10. Intolerable Behavior

A spouse who has been neglectful, hateful, rude, or abusive constantly to their spouse may be found at fault for a divorce. These actions would render the victim’s spouse’s life “intolerable.”

11. Attempted Murder

Attempted murder must be malicious and intentional. This could also lead to a felony conviction.

12. Cruel and Inhumane Treatment

These grounds for a fault-based divorce cover emotional and physical abuse. Some treatments this covers include assault, any form of domestic violence, and the failure to provide appropriate living conditions.

13. Convicted of a Felony

A felony conviction is a charge that results in at least a year in prison. The spouse must have been charged, convicted, and issued a sentence for this to qualify as grounds for a fault-based divorce.

Tennessee’s Waiting Period for a Divorce

Tennessee law requires a 60-day waiting period before finalizing a divorce, regardless of whether it is fault-based or no-fault. During this time, the parties are encouraged to explore counseling, mediation, or collaborative divorce options to resolve their issues and help minimize conflict amicably.

Turn to Attorney Hunter Fowler For Reliable Legal Representation During Your Divorce

When deciding whether or not to file for a fault-based divorce, couples should consider the potential consequences and the alternatives. Divorce can be very time-consuming and expensive to begin with. While placing blame for the marriage’s downfall may give the filing spouse a sense of validation or justice, it can also create animosity between the parties and be more expensive to resolve.

Attorney Hunter Fowler is a Murfreesboro divorce attorney with extensive experience providing legal services to individuals in your situation. He will guide you through the divorce process and make it seamless. Hunter will do what it takes to ensure you are heard, and your needs are met.

Contact us today for a consultation.