What is Considered Abandonment in Tennessee Divorce Cases?

By Tom Streissguth

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The laws of Tennessee allow several grounds for divorce or legal separation, including abandonment and separation -- voluntary or not -- of the parties. To file a successful divorce petition based on such grounds, your spouse must either agree to the grounds, or you must prove them to a judge in divorce court. You must state the grounds in the initial Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, otherwise the court will dismiss the case.


Abandonment means leaving the home or the spouse and moving to a new residence, either within Tennessee or out of state. As a "fault" ground, you must prove abandonment if the other party does not consent to the divorce. This means providing evidence in the form of written documents and spoken testimony that the abandonment was willful and permanent. Similar grounds are a forced removal from the home by one of the spouses -- and a refusal to allow the other spouse to return to the home.


If you move to Tennessee from another state, and your spouse refuses to move with you and does not move to Tennessee within a period of two years, this also constitutes a case of abandonment and grounds for divorce.


Tennessee law imposes residency requirements on anyone filing for divorce. You must be a resident of the state at the time the alleged grounds for divorce occurred. If those grounds, including abandonment, occurred outside Tennessee, then either spouse must be a resident of Tennessee for at least six months before the divorce petition is filed. The petition may be filed in the county of residence of either spouse.

Desertion and Separation

Tennessee law also provides for "willful desertion" for at least one year as valid grounds for divorce. In the case of willful desertion, the petitioner must prove the intent of the other party to abandon or desert the family. Another provision of the divorce laws provides for "no-fault" grounds if there are no children of the marriage and the spouses have lived separately for at least two years.