Once the decision has been made to end a marriage, the next step is for one spouse to initiate the legal process of dissolving the marriage. As part of that process, the filing spouse, known as the “Petitioner,” must choose whether to file a no-fault or a fault divorce. If you are planning to file for divorce, you may be wondering how to decide which way to file. To help you, a Murfreesboro divorce attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby explains the benefits of filing an at-fault divorce in Tennessee.
Grounds for Divorce
Traditionally, a spouse seeking to end his/her marriage had to allege — and ultimately prove – grounds on which the law would approve a petition for dissolution. In essence, you had to prove that your spouse did something wrong that warranted your request for a divorce. Of course, divorce was frowned upon which helps explain the at-fault requirement. Times have certainly changed though. Today, a first marriage stands about a 50 percent chance of resulting in a divorce. As views on divorce changed, so did the legal requirements for obtaining a divorce. Most states now offer a no-fault divorce, either as the only option or as one option. In Tennessee, you have the option to file a no-fault divorce, simply asserting that you have “irreconcilable differences” or you may file using any of the following fault grounds:
- Habitual drunkenness or abuse of narcotic drugs
- Living apart for two years with no minor children
- Inappropriate marital conduct
- Willful or malicious desertion for one full year without a reasonable cause
- Conviction of a felony
- Pregnancy of the wife by another before the marriage without the husband’s knowledge
- Refusal to move to Tennessee with your spouse and living apart for two years
- Malicious attempt upon the life of another
- Lack of reconciliation for two years after the entry of a decree of separate maintenance
- Impotency and sterility
- Abandonment or refusal or neglecting to provide for spouse although able to do so
If you allege fault grounds when you file for divorce, you will have to prove that those grounds exist for the court to grant your divorce whereas if you file a no-fault divorce you are not required to prove anything.
Why File an At-Fault Divorce?
Knowing that there is an option to file the much simpler no-fault divorce, it is easy to question why someone would ever seek an at-fault divorce. Why add all that extra work to what is likely already a stressful situation? There are benefits to be gained by filing an at-fault divorce.
One of the most common reasons why a divorce might be filed using fault grounds is the fact that wrongdoing on the part of a spouse can impact the division of assets, spousal support, and even parenting time with minor children. The hope of receiving a larger percentage of the marital assets and/or a larger support award is often what fuels the decision to use fault grounds. Likewise, when decisions relating to minor children are contested in a divorce, it can be tempting to prove fault on the part of the other parent.
While proving fault on the part of a spouse can provide you with an advantage in a divorce, choosing to use fault grounds also has its disadvantages. The most obvious disadvantage is the fact that once you select an at-fault divorce you effectively ensure an acrimonious divorce. Alleging wrongdoing is naturally going to cause the target of those allegations to go into defensive mode. The result of which is a contentious divorce.
Filing an at-fault divorce almost always results in a longer divorce process because now the party alleging the wrongdoing must prove those allegations and the accused has the right to defend against those allegations. In the end, a considerable amount of time and money is often wasted when fault grounds are used in a divorce.
Contact a Murfreesboro Divorce Attorney
If you have additional questions or concerns about divorce in Tennessee, consult with a Murfreesboro divorce attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.