Does My Spouse Have to Agree to a Divorce?

Going through a divorce is not easy. Even if the decision to end the marriage was your decision, the legal process that follows is usually filled with a range of emotions and uncertainty. If a divorce is amicable, it definitely makes the process less stressful. What happens if the opposite occurs and your spouse doesn’t want to end the marriage at all? A Murfreesboro divorce attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby explains what happens if one spouse won’t agree to a divorce.

The Decision to Divorce

Couples arrive at the point of divorce in a seemingly endless number of ways and under a wide variety of circumstances. Sometimes both parties recognize that the marriage is not working, resulting in a mutual desire to seek a divorce. Other times, however, one spouse wants a divorce while the other spouse is adamant that the marriage can be saved. If you are the spouse that broached the subject of divorce and the response you received was something along the lines of “I won’t give you a divorce,” where does that leave you?

The Emotional Answer

Before explaining where you stand legally, it is important to pause and evaluate where you are emotionally. If your spouse doesn’t want to end the marriage, take some time and do some soul searching to make sure that you are really ready to do so. Like many states, Tennessee imposes a 60 day “cooling off” period between the time a Complaint for Divorce is filed and the time it can be granted. Before you go to the time and expense of starting the divorce process, take your own cooling off period to ensure that you are making the right decision.

The Legal Answer

If you have spent some time contemplating your marriage and you have reached the conclusion that divorce is the right course of action, you need to know where you stand legally if your spouse doesn’t agree. The concept that a spouse must agree to a divorce comes from the way divorce laws were once written – decades ago. There was a time when there were laws that required a husband to agree to a divorce or required a party to prove wrong doing on the part of the other party in order to get divorced. That was then, however, and this is now.

The bottom line is that your spouse cannot prevent you from getting a divorce. When you file for divorce, you must allege grounds on which the divorce may be granted. Each state determines what grounds are acceptable. Historically, most states only allowed fault grounds, meaning the party seeking the divorce had to prove that the other party did something wrong that justified ending the marriage. Slowly, however, states began to offer the option of a no-fault divorce or do away with fault based divorces altogether. A no-fault divorce is what people commonly refer to as “irreconcilable differences.” Tennessee now offers both a no-fault option and 14 fault grounds, including:

  • Cruel and Inhuman Treatment / Inappropriate Marital Conduct
  • Adultery
  • Bigamy
  • Impotence and Inability to Procreate
  • Desertion for One Year
  • Conviction of an Infamous Crime
  • Conviction of a Felony
  • Attempt to Kill One’s Spouse
  • Refusal to Move
  • Pregnancy
  • Habitual Drunkenness or Abuse of Narcotic Drugs
  • Indignities
  • Abandonment
  • Two Years Separation With No Minor Children.

Does It Matter At All If My Spouse Agrees to the Divorce?

While your spouse cannot prevent you from ending the marriage, he/she can certainly make the divorce process more difficult than it needs to be which is why it is always better to try and reach an agreement before initiating the divorce process if possible. Unfortunately, given the nature of the subject matter, reaching an agreement may not be possible. If that occurs in your divorce, the advise and guidance of an experienced divorce attorney will be even more important which is why you should consult with an attorney early on in the process.

Contact a Murfreesboro Divorce Attorney

If you are contemplating divorce in Tennessee it is in your best interest to consult with a Murfreesboro divorce attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are protected throughout the process. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.

Stan Bennett
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