During the first three years after statehood, divorces had to be granted by an act of the Tennessee General Assembly. In 1799 the Superior Courts were given the power to grant divorces, and this was extended to the Circuit Courts in 1809. All three bodies were able to hear divorce petitions until the constitution of 1835 removed divorce jurisdiction from the General Assembly. At the same time, a new system of Chancery Courts was created, and divorce cases were decided in Chancery and Circuit Courts thereafter.
To find a divorce filed with the General Assembly, search the Index to Names in the Acts of Tennessee 1796-1850 . The Tennessee State Library and Archives can, for a fee, copy up to three chapters from the published Acts of Tennessee. If an act is located, we can also check to see if a legislative petition is on file to provide more information about the divorce.
Minutes of the Superior, Circuit and Chancery Courts contain brief references to divorces both requested and denied. The list of Genealogical County Fact Sheets and the Inventory of Local Records on Microfilm will give the dates of the court minutes in our collection for the counties of Tennessee. In addition to minute books, some counties also have preserved case files of loose papers, which can include more details than are found in the minutes. For information about searching court minutes and files, follow this link. [http://sos.tn.gov/products/tsla/ordering-court-minutes].
Divorce decrees from any lower court could be appealed to the Tennessee Supreme Court. If a case was appealed to the Supreme Court before 1950, search our index to case files for information.
As of July 1, 1945, divorce records were recorded at the state level in Tennessee. The Library and Archives has a state-wide divorce index which covers the dates July 1, 1945 - December 31, 1969.
Divorce certificates for 1970 to the present are held by the Office of Vital Records, Tennessee Department of Health.