When you file for divorce, you will need to include the grounds (reasons) under which you are filing. In Tennessee, the grounds for divorce include (T.S.A. § 36-4-101):
- Irreconcilable differences (no-fault divorce)
- Abandonment (without reasonable cause) for a year or longer
- Felony conviction that results in imprisonment
- Continuous substance abuse
- Inappropriate marital conduct
Divorce Based on Inappropriate Marital Conduct
Inappropriate marital conduct can also be referred to as cruel and inhumane treatment or conduct. If the actions of one spouse have made the marriage unsafe, the other party can file on the grounds of inappropriate marital conduct. In fact, this is one of the most common grounds under which couples file. Unlike some of the other grounds, filing this way can be easy to substantiate in court.
For example, if you suspect your spouse is cheating, you can only file for adultery if you can prove it. Filing under any fault-based grounds puts the burden of proof on you, which can be difficult. While you may be able to showcase that your partner regularly dined and traveled with someone else, you may not be able to prove that they actually committed adultery based on these facts. In this case, you can instead file under inappropriate marital conduct, since infidelity is considered cruel.
This fault-based ground can also cover a multitude of issues. Cruel behavior and actions that can fall under these grounds include:
- Verbal or emotional abuse
- Acts of domestic violence
- Inappropriate relationships with people outside of the marriage
- Improper care of children
- Any other pain or distress the filing party has been caused by their spouse’s actions
Possible Defenses to Inappropriate Marital Conduct
Just as the filing party must provide evidence to substantiate their claim, the other party can submit proof in their defense. To disprove any claims that their behavior created a toxic marital environment, a person can attempt to show that:
- they had justifiable cause. Consider this: a husband and wife have a disagreement. The wife repeatedly hits the husband, which results in him pushing her away. The wife is injured due to being pushed. She files for divorce on the grounds of inappropriate marital conduct, claiming the husband’s abuse has made the marriage unsafe. The husband can show that he was acting in self-defense in this instance.
- they didn’t understand or couldn’t control their actions. For instance, someone with a mental health condition can show that their inability to perform certain marital duties or their actions at times were due in part to their mental health.
During the discovery process, you and your lawyer can work to collect relevant information and evidence. Depending on what you are trying to prove or disprove, you can bring forward a variety of evidence, which can include:
- Testimonies from other witnesses
- Photographic or video content
- Documents (like pay stubs, bank statements, or investigative reports)
How Long Does a Fault-Based Divorce Take?
Uncontested and no-fault divorces are more cost-effective and typically proceed faster than fault-based divorces. On average, a no-fault and uncontested divorce can take anywhere from 2 to 6 months. Fault-based divorces, on the other hand, can get dragged out for years, averaging over a year in most cases.
However, no matter how you file, Tennessee has a “waiting” or “cooling-off” period for divorcing couples. If a couple has minor children, they must wait 90 days after filing before their court hearing can commence. Couples without children under 18 must also wait—for 60 days.
Speak with Our Divorce Lawyers
Filing for divorce can be stressful. But with the help of our skilled attorneys, the process can be eased. Known as advocates and active listeners, our attorneys can handle your case legalities and support you as you walk into this new season of your life.At Casey, Simmons & Bryant, PLLC, we have over 30 years of experience. Our attorneys are dedicated to helping clients smoothly navigate their divorce cases. If you need help filing for divorce and/or understanding what grounds you should file under, please reach out. For a case consultation, call (731) 256-0023 or complete this online form.