The court only has jurisdiction to divide marital property. Marital property is defined by the following statute:
(1) (A) Marital property means all real and personal property
, both tangible and intangible, acquired by either or both spouses during the course of the marriage up to the date of the final divorce hearing and owned by either or both spouses as of the date of filing of a complaint for divorce, except in the case of fraudulent conveyance in anticipation of filing, and including any property to which a right was acquired up to the date of the final divorce hearing, and valued as of a date as near as reasonably possible to the final divorce hearing date. In the case of a complaint for legal separation
, the court may make a final disposition of the marital property either at the time of entering an order of legal separation or at the time of entering a final divorce decree, if any. If the marital property is divided as part of the order of legal separation, any property acquired by a spouse thereafter is deemed separate property of that spouse. All marital property shall be valued as of a date as near as possible to the date of entry of the order finally dividing the marital property.
(B) Marital property includes income from, and any increase in value during the marriage of, property determined to be separate property in accordance with subdivision (b)(2) if each party substantially contributed to its preservation and appreciation, and the value of vested and unvested pension, vested and unvested stock option rights, retirement or other fringe benefit rights relating to employment that accrued during the period of the marriage.
(C) Marital property includes recovery in personal injury, workers' compensation, social security disability actions, and other similar actions for the following: wages lost during the marriage, reimbursement for medical bills incurred and paid with marital property, and property damage to marital property.
So property acquired prior to marriage is typically classified as separate property and is not divided during a divorce.
Statute here: http://law.justia.com/codes/tennessee/2010/title-36/chapter-4/36-4-121
For spousal support
, the court can consider one's separate property in awarding spousal support per 36-4-121 :
(a) In any action for divorce, legal separation or separate maintenance
, the court may award alimony
to be paid by one spouse to or for the benefit of the other, or out of either spouse’s property, according to the nature of the case and the circumstances of the parties. The court may fix some definite amount or amounts to be paid in monthly, semimonthly or weekly installments, or otherwise, as the circumstances may warrant. Such award, if not paid, may be enforced by any appropriate process of the court having jurisdiction including levy of execution. Further, the order or decree shall remain in the court’s jurisdiction and control, and, upon application of either party, the court may award an increase or decrease or other modification of the award based upon a showing of a substantial and material change of circumstances; provided, that the award is subject to modification by the court based on the type of alimony awarded, the terms of the court’s decree or the terms of the parties’ agreement.
So in order to avoid the consideration of separate property in a divorce for spousal support purposes, a prenuptial would need to be executed.
Information on prenups here: http://www.tba.org/journal/divorce-planning-in-tennessee-pre-nuptial-post-nuptial-agreements-and-trusts
and here: http://www.freelegalaid.com/nav/tennessee/prenuptual-and-postnuptual/article/prenuptial-agreements-tennessee