We recently provided a family law blog concerning this subject relative to Arizona law. This family law blog addresses the same issue but in Tennessee, where the law is different.

Despite the difference in the laws, the issue is prevalent in divorce. One spouse will tell the other that they will never “give” them a divorce. Sometimes spouses will live in two different places, even in two different states.  

In Tennessee, unlike many other states, there must be grounds for a divorce unless both parties agree to divorce. The involved statute lists the grounds. They include common sense actions which one would think are grounds for a divorce such as adultery, physical abuse, drug or alcohol abuse, etc. There is also a phrase that is used to encompass a number of unlisted activities. The phrase is “inappropriate marital conduct.”  

In Tennessee, if the parties agree to divorce, then they must file a document with the court called a Marital Dissolution Agreement. If there are minor children the divorcing parents must also file a Permanent Parenting Plan and a Child Support Worksheet.  

If one spouse wants a divorce but the other does not, that can create quite a problem in Tennessee. The general rule is that the party who wants the divorce will, in all probability, eventually obtain the divorce. But it may cost them to do so. When the party desiring the divorce is ready, that party will file for divorce. The filing is a lawsuit and it must be served on the other spouse.  

Once the lawsuit is served, then the next step is for the parties to begin to either work the terms of the divorce or proceed with litigation. Litigation is time consumptive and can be very expensive. If the parties choose to litigate, as litigation wears on them and costs them more and more money, oftentimes the parties end up agreeing to divorce, rather than spending large amounts of money on lawyers.  

Sometimes, however, one party either does not want the divorce and continues to feel that way despite the divorce lawsuit, or there are intractable issues such as custody of one or more minor children, significant financial issues, etc. which cause the parties to be unable to agree.  

In Tennessee, before a divorce trial can take place and the judge decides the issues in a divorce, the parties must attend mandatory mediation. Mediation involves a third party mediator who meets with the parties and their attorneys and who tries to resolve the issues between the spouses.  

Sometimes the filing of the lawsuit is enough of a realization for the spouse who does not want the divorce to act as a wake-up call and facilitate moving forward with a divorce, splitting-up marital property and deciding what to do about any minor children. Other times, it takes litigation, mediation or even a trial to finally resolve the issues.  

As a general rule, however, even though grounds are required for divorce in Tennessee, if one party has decided that they really want a divorce and they do not have the grounds set forth in the statute, a divorce is still a possibility. Oftentimes once the other spouse realizes the decision is final, the parties can work out an agreement that they both can live with.


About the Author:
Stuart Scott is a litigation attorney with over 25 years of experience. He has tried hundreds of cases in both state and federal court. Some of his noteworthy victories have been featured in local, state and national publications. Stuart is also listed as a Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 31 Family Law Mediator. Stuart focuses his primary area of practice on family law. He represents people going through divorce and focuses his efforts on providing his legal services and advice to his clients in this area. Mr. Scott may be reached in our Nashville office at 615-620-1710.