Grounds for Divorce in Tennessee

To get divorced, you need to state a sufficient reason for such a decision to the court. There are 15 legal grounds for divorce in Tennessee outlined in the state’s statutes. The main reasons for divorce are usually inappropriate marital conduct, such as infidelity or domestic violence, or mere incompatibility of the spouses with no hope for reconciliation. Although irreconcilable differences tend to be the most common reason for divorce countrywide, many people often file for dissolution of marriage on fault-based grounds for divorce in Tennessee.

To answer the question of what are the grounds for divorce, we have gathered comprehensive information about no-fault and at-fault grounds for divorce in Tennessee and some explanations for this aspect of your marriage dissolution.

Legal Grounds for Divorce in Tennessee

Legal grounds for divorce in Tennessee may be no-fault or fault-based. It means that you do not obligatory need to blame your spouse for the ruined relationship when asked, “What are the grounds for divorce in your case?” You can file for a dissolution of marriage by stating that it is irretrievably broken and there is no chance for reconciliation. Or you can go for a divorce if your spouse gives you a serious sound reason to terminate your union.

In Tennessee, two possible legal grounds for divorce are considered to be no-fault. They are:

  • Irreconcilable differences between the parties;
  • Two years (or more) of separate living with no sexual relations and no children.

In both of these cases, the initiator of the divorce does not accuse the other party of the marriage breakup and prove their fault to have their marriage dissolved.

Fault-based legal grounds for divorce in Tennessee are the ones that put the blame on one of the spouses for the end of the marriage. They include:

  • Adultery;
  • Bigamy;
  • Abandonment and refusal to provide for the other spouse;
  • Desertion or absence for no reason for one year;
  • Attempt upon the spouse’s life;
  • Cruel conduct or inhuman treatment;
  • Substance abuse contracted after marriage;
  • Impotence and inability to procreate;
  • Wife’s pregnancy from another man before marriage without the husband’s knowledge;
  • Conviction of an infamous crime;
  • Conviction of a felony;
  • Refusal to move to Tennessee with the spouse and living apart for two years;
  • Indignity.

If the plaintiff files for a fault-based marriage dissolution due to one of these legal reasons for divorce, they will need to prove the other spouse’s guilt, present sufficient evidence, and maybe even invite witnesses to testify.

The legal grounds for divorce in Tennessee are stipulated in the Tennessee Code § 36-4-101.

Mixed Divorce State

Tennessee is a mixed divorce state, which means that both no-fault and at-fault dissolution of marriage is possible.

In a no-fault divorce, the petitioner does not need to present and prove the other spouse’s wrongdoing. In fact, such marriages are dissolved on the basis of complete incompatibility of the parties or irreconcilable differences, which is the most common reason for divorce in most states, including Tennessee.

At-fault divorce is when one of the spouse’s fault should be presented as the legal ground for their marriage dissolution. The biggest reasons for divorce in such cases are manifestations of inappropriate marital conduct that may include adultery, abandonment, bigamy, cruel behavior, physical and emotional abuse, crime, etc. All 13 fault-based grounds for divorce in Tennessee are listed in the Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-4-101. If the petitioner files for marriage dissolution based on the spouse’s fault, the case will likely be contested and should be resolved in the courtroom.

No-Fault Divorce in Tennessee

No-fault divorce is the most common type of marriage dissolution in Tennessee and the best option for getting a low-cost uncontested divorce.

Generally, if you ask, “Is Tennessee a no-fault state for divorce?”, you will not get a definite affirmative answer since in the state, couples are allowed to file for both at-fault and no-fault dissolution of marriage. However, no-fault are the most common reasons for divorce that are frequently cited by petitioners.

The main no-fault grounds for divorce in TN indicated in the state’s statutes are irreconcilable differences between the spouses. It means that the marriage is irretrievably broken, and there is no way therapy, counseling, or any other intervention or miracle can help the couple to reconcile.

One more reason stated in the corresponding provisions of the Tennessee Code is often viewed as no-fault grounds for divorce in TN. This reason is the spouses’ separate living for two or more years as long as they reside in different places, having no sexual relations during this period, and have no minor children. In fact, such separate residence also indicates that there are irreconcilable differences between the parties to the extent of their inability to live under the same roof. No one is to blame for such a state of affairs since both have agreed to this separation.

The absence of either party’s fault is a perfect opportunity to file for an uncontested no-fault divorce in Tennessee, which comes with several benefits for the divorcing couple. They get an opportunity to go through a relatively cheap, fast, and easy process if they manage to agree on all the terms and conditions of their divorce and life after it. In this case, they will not need to hire a lawyer, undergo lengthy and exhausting negotiations, and attend multiple hearings and trials, saving a lot of time and money.

Religious Reasons for Divorce in Tennessee

No grounds are officially accepted or proclaimed as religious reasons for divorce in Tennessee. However, some of them noticeably intertwine with biblical canons. Indeed, grounds for divorce outlined in the statutes that are based on infidelity, crime of any kind, abuse, or cruelty toward the spouse violate Christian beliefs and teachings, providing a good reason for dubbing them religious.

So, what are biblical grounds for divorce from this point of view?

Unrighteous behavior in regard to the spouse or any kind of criminal activity goes against the Scripture. In the Tennessee Code, several legal reasons for divorce fall under this description. From this perspective, the following grounds for marriage dissolution in the state can be regarded as biblical reasons for divorce:

  • Marital infidelity;
  • Entering a second marriage;
  • Infamous crime;
  • Felony;
  • Cruel or inhuman behavior that endangers the other spouse;
  • Obscene behavior that makes the other spouse’s position unbearable;
  • Attempt to murder the other spouse.

It is commonly accepted that actions like adultery, bigamy, criminal offense, violence, and indignity are inadmissible and denounced by all world religions. Therefore, it is possible to say that the listed issues go against the teachings in the scriptural books and violate well-known religious canons. And although there are no officially announced religious reasons for divorce in Tennessee, some of the legal fault-based grounds stipulated in the Code may be viewed as such.


The top reason for divorce in Tennessee among no-fault ones is irreconcilable differences, which is cited in the majority of divorce complaints.

Marital misconduct, which can be manifested in one of the ways outlined in the Tennessee Code § 36-4-101, is a common ground in fault-based divorces.

Yes, adultery is one of the legal fault-based grounds for divorce in Tennessee.

In Tennessee, separate residence for two or more years without any sexual relations is one of the legal grounds for divorce.

Verbal abuse cannot be stated as the legal grounds for divorce. However, it certainly affects a person emotionally and is a constituent of behavior that qualifies as inappropriate and may be cited in pleadings.

Yes, abandonment is one of the legal fault-based grounds for divorce in Tennessee.

Emotional abuse can be a part of “cruel and inhuman treatment or conduct” that endangers cohabitation, which is among the grounds for divorce in the state.

No, financial infidelity is not a legal ground for divorce in Tennessee. However, it may possibly affect court decisions in property division or child support disputes.

Commitment of adultery by one of the spouses is a sufficient legal reason to start a divorce in the state.

No, you cannot file for divorce due to falling out of love. However, it may be a reason for desertion, abandonment, or even adultery, all of which are the grounds for divorce.

No, smoking is not a legal reason for divorce in Tennessee.

Yes, alcoholism is cited among official reasons for divorce in the state.