TENNESSEE: What are the divorce laws in Tennessee and how will they impact Al and Tipper Gore's divorce?

DIVORCE TENNESSEE STYLE – It’s my first post of the day as I’ve been communing with my cat who is unwell. Actually, I took him to be “put down” on Saturday and then I realized, hey, what the eff are you doing? This little creature may be sick but he can see and hear and eat and so he wobbles and collapses under his weight and there is a big, ugly, bleeding tumor in his stomach and he’s down to his last 6 pounds. And the doctors tell you he only has two weeks, but what do they know? They don’t know everything. Besides, I’m not the one who gave him life and I don’t want to be the one who pulls the plug on him. So my days are spent sitting under a Magnolia tree in my mother’s front yard in the middle of the South, giving him sun baths which, I hope, will somehow rejuvenate him and he loves it, he really does. He’s been an indoor cat and I think he’s been vitamin D deprived and he absolutely loves lying in the grass and hearing the birds and bees, and watching the odd rabbit go by. (If you want to see him in better days, click our YOUTUBE links and he’s in one of them. Isn’t he cute???) Anyways, so for that reason and a few others, I have not been blogging as much as I used to. But when news got around about Al and Tipper, I was totally stunned like everyone else down here in these Southern parts, DivorceSaloonLand, and maybe in the whole country. So I did a quick review of divorce in Tennessee and here’s what I’ve found.
RESIDENCY
First, to file for divorce in Tennessee, the Gores have to have been residents of Tennessee for at least 6 months. They pass that test with flying colors.
GROUNDS
Second, they can file either no fault – irreconcilable differences, or they can get a divorce on the following grounds:

(1) impotence; (2) adultery; (3) conviction of a felony and imprisonment; (4) alcoholism and/or drug addiction; (5) wife is pregnant by another at the time of marriage without husband’s knowledge; (6) willful desertion for 1 year; (7) bigamy; (8) endangering the life of the spouse; (9) conviction of an infamous crime; (10) refusing to move to Tennessee with a spouse and willfully absenting oneself from a new residence for 2 years; (11) cruel and inhuman treatment or unsafe and improper marital conduct; (12) indignities that make the spouse’s life intolerable; and (13) abandonment, neglect, or banning the spouse from the home. (Tennessee Code – Volume 6A, Title 36, Sections 36-4-101 and 36-4-103)

Well, what can I say there? From the tone of the email the Gores sent to friends, I’m thinking they are going with no fault irreconcilable differences on this one. I mean, conceivably, Al could be impotent, but that is not something they are going to broadcast. He could have committed adultery. That would hardly be novel in their milieu. But no sleezy other woman has sent any text messages to People Magazine or Huffington Post. At least, not yet. Besides, Al strikes me as very moral in this regard. If he meets someone else, he will seek a divorce before acting on it. Tipper on the other hand, could also have committed adultery. I doubt it. But it is possible she got bored or something. Whatever it was, I don’t think they will broadcast it. As for the other grounds in Tennessee like alcoholism, bigamy and conviction of a crime, I doubt it. I mean, Al could be addicted to Jim Beams or whatever it was Laura Bush said her husband liked to drink. But he’s too “green” to contaminate his body like that, I’m thinking. So I just think none of these other grounds will come into play. This is a no fault divorce. I’d be shocked otherwise.
COUNSELING/MEDIATION REQUIREMENTS
The state of Tennessee requires that parties submit to counseling or mediation to see if the marriage can be saved prior to granting a divorce petition. But if the court feels there is no chance at reconciliation the court won’t mandate counseling or mediation. (This is interesting because there is no such requirement in New York but more and more I see it is required in other jurisdictions. I think Canada mandates counseling first, doesn’t it?)
CUSTODY
Thankfully, this is not an issue for this couple because their children are grown. Sarah, Albert III, Kristen and, is it Karenna? They are grown ups so there will be no custody battle. But if the kids were young, then the Tennessee courts mirror most, if not all other states, by doing a “best interest of the child analysis.”

(1) the love, affection, and emotional ties between the parents and child; (2) the importance of continuity and the length of time the child has lived in a stable and satisfactory environment; (3) whether there has been any domestic violence or physical or mental abuse to the child, spouse, or any other person and whether a parent has had to relocate to avoid such violence; (4) the stability of the family unit; (5) the mental and physical health of the parents; (6) the home, school, and community record of the child; (7) the reasonable preference of a child over 12 years of age; (8) the character and behavior of any person who lives in or visits the parent’s home and such person’s interactions with the child; and (9) each parent’s past and potential performance of parenting duties, including a willingness and ability to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship with the other parent. (Tennessee Code – Volume 6A, Title 36, Sections 36-4-106)

SPOUSAL SUPPORT/ALIMONY/MAINTENANCE
Well, first of all, Tennessee is an equitable distribution state. That means, unlike California and Texas, it is not going to be 50/50. It is going to be what is “fair” in the eyes of the court. Spousal support is at the court’s discretion assuming there is no prenup (Tennessee did not opt into the Premarital Agreement Act like these other 27 states, btw: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin) and the parties cannot agree amongst themselves.  Here are some of the factors the court will consider:

 The court will consider the following: (1) the value of any separate property and the value of the spouse’s share of any marital property; (2) whether the spouse seeking alimony is the custodian of a child whose circumstances make it appropriate for that spouse not to seek outside employment; (3) the need for sufficient education and training to enable the spouse to find appropriate employment; (4) the standard of living during the marriage; (5) the duration of the marriage; (6) the comparative financial resources of the spouses, including their comparative earning abilities in the labor market and any retirement, pension, or profit-sharing benefits; (7) the needs and obligations of each spouse; (8) the tangible and intangible contributions of each spouse to the marriage, including services rendered in homemaking, childcare, and contributions to the education, earning capacity, and career-building of the other spouse; (9) the relative education and training of the spouses and the opportunity of each party to secure education and training; (10) the age of the spouses; (11) the physical and mental condition of the spouse; (12) the tax consequences to each spouse; (13) the usual occupation of the spouses during the marriage; (14) the vocational skills and employability of the spouse seeking alimony; (15) the conduct of the spouses during the marriage; and (16) any other factor the court deems just and equitable. (Tennessee Code – Volume 6A, Title 36, Sections 36-4-101)

Wow. The Washington Post said today that the couple just bought an $8.8 million dollar residence in California just this spring. So assuming there is equity there, that’s going to be in the pot, and it’s going to be split equitably along with their other assets. Btw, check out the slide-show of the Gores courtesy of Washington Post. Really, they were a gorgeous family and couple. It’s a shame it’s ended like this after 40 years. A real shame.
Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/14279744@N03/1555255519/