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Tennessee Court Records

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Tennessee Divorce Records

Divorce records in the state of Tennessee are documents or files that are gathered throughout the divorce process and maintained by public bodies under the state in various formats. The United States Census Bureau states that 9.1 out of every 1000 women (over 15 years old) in Tennessee have gotten a divorce.

The term “divorce” as used in this article refers to the dissolution of marriage and not legal separation or annulment. While these three are ways to end a marriage, they are different. Legal separation allows married couples to formalize their estrangement or officially live apart, although both parties are still legally married and will need to get divorced before marrying someone else.

On the other hand, an annulment is a cancellation of marriage as if it never happened. The union is nullified under tricky and limited circumstances like insanity, incest, bigamy, impotence, fraud, duress, underage marriage without consent, etc.

However, a divorce is a termination of marriage, a legal dissolution of marital union. In this case, it happened but it ended. The grounds for divorce in Tennessee are nevertheless similar to those of legal separation.

Note: After two years of legal separation, the court may grant a spouse’s request for a divorce.

The 15 grounds for divorce in Tennessee are:

  • Impotence or inability to procreate at the time of marriage
  • Bigamy
  • Adultery
  • Willful and malicious desertion
  • Criminal conviction
  • Felony conviction and incarceration
  • Attempted murder
  • Refusal to move into Tennessee with spouse and willful absence for 2 years
  • Pregnancy of the wife by another man at the time of marriage without the husband’s knowledge
  • Habitual drunkenness or substance abuse contracted after marriage
  • Cruel and inhumane treatment or conduct
  • Indignities
  • Abandonment and willful neglect
  • Irreconcilable differences
  • Uninterrupted separation for 2 years with no minor children

Hearing is held after 60 days if there are no unmarried children under 18 and after 90 days if there are unmarried children under 18. However, there is no stipulation on how long the divorce process may take but uncontested and no-fault divorces are usually shorter than contested and at-fault divorces.

How are Divorce Records Generated in Tennessee?

Generally, divorce records are produced and collated throughout the divorce procedure by the court clerk and sent to the Office of Vital Records; from the filing of divorce complaints till the divorce is finalized. A divorce is finalized at the final hearing when the judge approves the divorce decree and Marital Dissolution Agreement (MDA).

Therefore, information from every document submitted, court proceedings, and judgments may be part of divorce records. This included details like names, date of marriage and divorce, date of birth, declaration of assets, divorce decree, and so on.

Note: Documents submitted or information divulged to a mediator shall be confidential or privileged unless waived by both parties.

Are Divorce Records Public in Tennessee?

At the time of finalization, divorce records are considered confidential in Tennessee, and certified or informational copies can only be accessible by a few people with legitimate or direct claims. However, they will become public after 50 years from the day the divorce was granted, as provided by the Tennessee Vital Records Act. Also, divorces that occurred from July 1, 1945 to 1969 are open to the public.

Exemptions include the confidential information sections of the record and information disclosed to a mediator. Records that have been sealed by law or court order are also not available to the public but only to a small number of people with the right clearance.

Examples of parts of a divorce record that will the disclosed include:

  • Full names of both parties
  • Full names of children
  • Dates of birth
  • Date of marriage
  • Date of divorce
  • Custody information

However, parts of a divorce that may not be disclosed are:

  • Medical records and identifiable health information or certificates
  • Criminal investigative records
  • Certain military information
  • Telephone numbers and address
  • Academic information
  • Details concerning personal properties, assets, or financial information
  • Information concerning domestic violence and abuse (except to children services and enforcement agencies)

What are the types of Divorce Records available in Tennessee?

The types of divorce records in Tennessee are:

Divorce certificates: Also known as proof of divorce, these are documents that contain the basic information surrounding a divorce. For instance, the names of parties and children, date of marriage and divorce, location, signatures, and so on. Certified copies will have the official seal or stamp while informational copies will not. Depending on the date of the divorce, they can be obtained from the court where the divorce occurred, the office of vital records, or the Tennessee state library and archives.

Divorce decrees: Also known as the final decree of divorce, these are legal documents that contain the court order that terminates the marriage and summarizes the rights and responsibilities of each party as well as terms of separation. This includes financial responsibility, child custody, child support, spousal support or alimony, division of assets, and so on. If a party does not fulfill any obligation stated within, the other party can take legal action. Either party can also appeal or petition the court for a reevaluation of decrees. Copies of decrees can mainly be obtained from the clerk of the court where the divorce happened.

Divorce case files: Also called court minutes in Tennessee, these are records that contain the court proceedings surrounding a divorce. The more contentious the divorce, the bigger the file is likely to be. This record will also include evidence submitted in courts and transcripts of testimonies and judgments. Individuals may need the court minutes to settle future disputes after a divorce or merely for informational purposes. Records court divorces may be obtained from the court where they happened or at the Tennessee State Library and Archives. Like most court records, divorce case files or court minutes are open to the public but may be sealed or have certain confidential information which will only be available to people with legitimate or direct claims.

How Do I Get Divorce Records in Tennessee?

Getting divorce records in Tennessee may involve the following steps:

Step 1: Determine the type of divorce record required:

Potential requesters must first determine if the records they need is a divorce certificate, decree, or court minutes. They should also determine if their purpose for obtaining the record requires either the certified copy or informational copy of the record. This will make the next steps of obtaining a record easier for them.

Step 2: Determine the custodian of the divorce records:

There are different custodians for divorce records; certificates from 1970 can be obtained from the office of vital records, decrees and court minutes can be obtained from the courts where the divorce took place. Older records can also be obtained from the state library and archives.

It will be easier to ascertain the custodian of records if the individual has certain information like:

  • The full names of either party or both parties
  • The date of the divorce with the specified day or within a five-year range
  • Location of the divorce (state, city or county)

Step 3: Determine record accessibility and availability:

Individuals must determine if the records can be accessed by them. Records that are not over 50 years old can only be obtained on self, direct relations of those who got divorced, or the legal representatives of these people. They can also be obtained by court and law enforcement personnel. The same is true to records that have been sealed or information that is considered to be confidential. Individuals can also contact the custodian to determine the accessibility of certain records.

Additionally, interested individuals must find out the various means where they can make requests to custodians and determine the means that will provide the best quality experience in terms of speed, ease, and cost.

Step 4: Contact the Custodian

Requesting a divorce record from any custodian may involve:

  • Writing and mailing a formal request letter
  • Making an oral request in person
  • Filling and submitting forms online or otherwise
  • Providing the required identification or authorization
  • Paying administration, duplication and/or research fees
  • Waiting for review and receiving a response within 7 working days

Who Can Obtain Divorce Records in Tennessee?

In accordance with Tennessee public records law and Tennessee vital records Act, divorce records shall be confidential for 50 years and can only be accessible by the direct owner, close relations, legal representatives, court personnel, and enforcement agencies. The same can be said about sealed records and parts of records that are deemed to be confidential.

After 50 years, records are opened for the public to view, inspect, or obtain copies, as long as the record is not sealed. Confidential information sections will be removed or edited out of copies given to the public and sealed records cannot be obtained by ineligible individuals.

Are Tennessee Divorce Records Available Online?

Yes, divorce records may be found on a court’s local website but may be basic and incomplete. Requests can also be made online through a custodian’s website. Also, divorce records can be obtained through third-party websites.

How Do I Seal My Divorce Records in Tennessee?

Persons can maintain privacy either through mediation or sealing records. Persons who wish to seal their divorce records will need to petition the court or make a request or motion to the judge asking to seal the records. However, they need to present a compelling and valid reason to justify the request.

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