Tennessee Judge Reprimanded for Refusing to Grant Divorce to Opposite-Sex Couple Because of Supreme Court’s Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

After the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges last June that the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional (our analysis here), not everyone felt the need to celebrate.  A Hamilton County, Tennessee, judge disagreed with the decision, and on August 28, 2015, Chancellor Jeffrey Atherton ordered that Tennessee courts could not hear contested divorces because Obergefell v. Hodges invalidated the state’s jurisdiction over divorce cases.

Chancellor Atherton’s ruling came after four days of trial for a couple that was almost a year into the divorce process, and decided that their marriage was not irretrievably broken and could be salvaged.

On December 18, 2015, the Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct publicly reprimanded Chancellor Atherton.  In their letter of reprimand, the Board outlined Chancellor Atherton’s response after receiving the complaints that were filed against him for his decision, which included vacating the order denying the complaint and counter-complaint for divorce, and granting a divorce.  Further, the Board held that Chancellor Atherton violated his obligation to comply with the law, and by failing to promote confidence in the judiciary.

If you have any questions about divorce in Massachusetts, call 781 484-1066 to speak with the attorneys at Finn & Eaton, P.C., or send an email to schedule a free initial consultation.

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