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How Are Assets Divided in a Tennessee Divorce?

Tennessee is an equitable distribution state, which means that most property acquired during the marriage by either spouse is divided fairly — though not necessarily equally — when they divorce. Equitable does not necessarily translate as equal. In addition, equitable distribution does not mean that each party to the divorce will receive a share of every portion of the marital property. In certain situations, the court may award an entire asset to one party.

In Tennessee divorce actions, all property is categorized as either separate or marital in nature. Assets owned individually by the spouses prior to marriage are generally considered separate while those acquired during a marriage are deemed marital property. However, there can be exceptions to the marital property presumption, such as:

  • gifts and inheritances received by either spouse during marriage
  • income from and appreciation on property owned by a spouse before marriage
  • court awards for pain and suffering, future medical expenses and future lost wages
  • property a spouse acquires after an order of legal separation

Even separate property can become marital property. This may occur by commingling, such as by combining cash assets into a single account or giving a spouse shared ownership of real property. It can also happen by transmutation, namely when the separate property is treated in a way that indicates an intention of joint ownership. This may be the case if a spouse takes on payment of a mortgage or taxes on real estate owned by the other spouse prior to marriage.

Tennessee law provides numerous factors for the court to consider when dividing marital property, including:

  • The length of the marriage
  • The age, mental and physical health, employability, vocational skills, earning potential, financial needs and financial liabilities of each spouse
  • The intangible or tangible contribution by one spouse to the training, education or enhanced earning capacity of the other spouse
  • The ability of each spouse to acquire additional income and capital assets in the future
  • Each party’s contribution to obtaining, preserving, appreciating or depreciating the property
  • Each party’s estate at the time they were married
  • Each party’s economic situation at the time the property division will go into effect
  • The tax ramifications for each party and the costs related to the sale of the asset
  • The quantity of social security benefits available to each party

Tennessee law also takes each party’s separate property into account when determining asset division. So, if one spouse has considerably more separate property, the court may award the other spouse a more significant portion of the marital property.

The seasoned legal team at Massengill, Caldwell & Coughlin, P.C has over 75 years of combined experience advocating for clients who are facing divorce and a host of other family law matters. We can answer your questions and discuss what factors could apply to your case. Call us today at 423-797-6022 or contact us online to inquire about your divorce needs at our Bristol office.

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