Why Get A Legal Separation In Tennessee Instead Of A Divorce?

No couple decides to get married with the intention of getting divorced later on. Unfortunately, some relationships do not work out in the long run. That means there comes a time when decisions about separation and divorce are going to need discussing. If both spouses are not fully confident divorce is the next move, a legal separation might be the best choice. It is a less severe and non-permanent solution to consider before divorcing.

Rarely is there one single reason couples will decide a legal separation in Tennessee is best for them. It could be they want a break from living with each other or cannot divorce because of religious beliefs. Below are some common questions and answers for those who are married and looking for options for exiting their marriage in Tennessee.

Why Would Someone Get a Legal Separation Instead of a Divorce?

There are numerous reasons to consider a legal separation instead of a divorce in Tennessee including:

  • Preserving valuable federal and tax benefits that would end if divorced
  • A separation may help preserve family life for children involved
  • A military pension may be ensured with a legal separation over divorce
  • Allowing the couple to remain on each other’s medical insurance

If you’re not certain of what route to take with your marriage after reading this in-depth article, then please contact Jed McKeehan at (865) 294-8008 today for your free family law consultation.

What Are The Benefits of Getting a Legal Separation?

There are advantages of choosing to legally separate instead of divorce to take into consideration. Separation agreements can protect both spouses and will help resolve issues such as debts, property, child custody, visitation, child support, alimony and other important matters in writing. Additionally, a legal separation allows spouses to remain married to retain insurance coverage in the event of disability or death of a spouse.

Legally separated couples may choose to cohabitate again at any time and be recognized once again as married. When you divorce, a couple cannot do this. They must get remarried to be recognized as such again. In Tennessee, a legal separation will not affect the matrimony bonds, but it will allow the parties the divide their assets and debts and protect the parties from being liable for each other’s debts going forward.

What Qualifies As Being Legally Separated?

In Tennessee, a legal separation is recognized when a judge signs an order that legally “separates” the parties It is essentially the same as a divorce, except the spouses are not allowed to remarry until they officially divorce. The grounds for a legal separation in Tennessee are the same for a divorce. The court system can rule on all issues for a legal separation as they would divorce, except for the dissolution of the marriage. Legal separation decrees can include financial support, child custody, and distribution of assets.

The state of Tennessee recognizes 15 grounds for divorce and legal separation. The most common is irreconcilable differences. This is the same as a no-fault divorce in Tennessee. If you and your spouse cannot file a no-fault separation, you will have to file on the grounds of a fault. Some of the more common grounds include habitual drunkenness, adultery, and inappropriate marital conduct

How Long Can You Be Legally Separated For?

Spouses can remain legally separated indefinitely if they choose to after the agreement is granted by the court. However, after two years of separation (the 15th item on TN state code on grounds for divorce), the court can grant a divorce if either of the spouses proves reconciliation has not happened. The other spouse cannot stop the divorce from being granted at this time.

Are You Protected Financially When Legally Separated In Tennessee?

When you are having issues with your spouse, you may think a divorce is the only way to split and protect yourself financially. However, legal separation in Tennessee can offer the same protection as divorcing. In some cases, it works out better than divorce. It’s best to consult a family law attorney to best understand your protections, since every case is unique.

Can You Be Legally Separated and Live In The Same House?

When legally separated in Tennessee, couples can choose to cohabitate again at any time, or they may never stop cohabitating throughout the entire process They will continue to be recognized as being married until the paperwork has been filed to move the separation to divorce.

Do You Have To Pay Alimony While Legally Separated?

Just as with a divorce, legally separated spouses can be awarded alimony to be paid. Who gets paid and how much will be dependent on the case circumstances and the decision of the court.  It’s important to know that the courts have decided that if alimony is awarded in a legal separation the courts are able to review the award of alimony and may decide to change the alimony if either party moves for a divorce.

Does The Date Of Separation Matter In A Divorce?

When it comes to a legal separation in Tennessee, the date you are officially granted the separation agreement by the court is significant. After two years of being legally separated, either spouse may ask for a divorce to be granted.

What Are The Disadvantages Of Getting A Legal Separation?

When obtaining a legal separation over a divorce, the same amount of work will be involved. The only difference is that spouses will continue to be recognized as married. The main disadvantage of legally separating is neither spouse will be able to remarry or enter into another domestic partnership.

In Tennessee, it may be considered adultery to enter into a sexual relationship with someone other than your spouse while legally separated. If you’ve been dating while legally separated and your spouse decides to divorce, they may do so on the grounds of adultery. This can have negative effects when the courts consider alimony.

Another downside to legally separating is that it does not automatically terminate a spouse’s right to get an inheritance from the other. Because the marriage is never fully terminated in the eyes of the law, one spouse may be entitled to a decedent’s estate. 

Why Would You Choose to be Legally Separated Instead of Just Getting Divorced?

Most of the individuals who opt for legal separation due so for religious religions.  Malachi 2:16 states, “‘For I hate divorce,’ says the Lord.” Legally separating instead of divorcing allows an individual to extricate themselves from a relationship which they no longer desire to be in, while not running afoul of their moral and religious beliefs.  

Separation Vs. Legal Separation In Tennessee?

If you and your spouse are not confident in a divorce or legal separation, you can participate in a trial separation. During a trial separation, you will usually remain married and live apart. This time will be spent reevaluating your marriage and both parties may decide to create an oral agreement about terms of support, visitation and child custody. 

To make your agreement more formal, it can be put in writing and signed by a notary. Couples need to understand that courts will not monitor or authorize a trial separation. If during a trial separation a spouse violates any of the oral or written terms they decided on together, the only recourse to be taken is for the other party to actually file for a legal separation or divorce.

Pros And Cons Of Separation and Divorce?

Even if a legal separation is only for a temporary amount of time, it can be a better option for many couples for numerous reasons. Both divorce and separation, however, have their own sets of pros and cons to consider before going forward.

Pros Of Legal Separation

  • It may not cause problems with a couple’s religious or ethical beliefs
  • Couples may want to try and fix their marriage at some point after living apart
  • One partner may continue getting insurance coverage from the other partner
  • There can be tax benefits of remaining married
  • One spouse may continue to be eligible for pensions or social security benefits from the other spouse before divorcing.

Cons of Legal Separation

  • Not all insurance companies allow for spouse benefits once a legal separation has been finalized
  • Couples may not remarry until they formally divorce
  • If alimony is a consideration, the courts are allowed to modify the alimony amount if a divorce is later sought

Pros of Divorce

  • Divorce makes separating official and legalized. This is the final step in dissolving the marriage.
  • Divorcing is a permanent solution, you will not need to go through the court process again in order to convert the separation to a divorce.
  • You can get remarried once your divorce is finalized.

Cons of Divorce

  • A divorce can be a more expensive process than a legal separation because the parties may feel the need to fight harder given the finality of what is being considered. You will have to cover attorney’s fees, court fees and other expenses involved with filing a divorce.
  • Divorces can be mentally exhausting for both spouses and any children involved.
  • Divorces can cause strain on other personal relationships with friends and family members. They may feel like they have to pick sides once you divorce. You may also find yourself wanting to stay away from any married friends.

Can You Date While Legally Separated?

While it is possible to date while legally separated in Tennessee, it can come with serious consequences. Some of those consequences are unforeseeable and can be critically damaging to the divorce case of the dating spouse. Dating while legally separated can be considered inappropriate marital conduct or adultery under Tennessee law.

Many lawyers have witnessed their client’s dating during a legal separation become the causation of moving into divorce proceedings. Dating while legally separated can also strain the former spouses’ relationship long after the divorce has been filed. Strained relationships between divorced spouses can cause problems later on when trying to co-parent under their permanent parenting plan settled by the court.

The negative consequences are not limited to the former spouse and possible embarrassment. It can also put a strain on the dating parent’s relationship with their adult children and can cause ramifications for years to come.

What Is A Legal Separation Agreement?

Separation agreements are formal agreements granted by courts in Tennessee to spouses who wish to remain married. 

The agreement resolves marital issues such as financial matters, visitation, child custody, debts, division of property and other matters in writing. Separation agreements in Tennessee are legally binding. 

Two years after a court grants a legal separation, either spouse may decide to file for divorce if there has been no reconciliation. The court may also choose to dissolve a marriage before the two years have passed at their discretion.

What Is The Paperwork Needed For A Legal Separation In Tennessee?

In Tennessee, filing for legal separation is essentially the same as filing for divorce. The spouses must file a petition with the court and ask the court for a legal separation.

If there are no children involved, the court will rule on your case no sooner than 60 days after filing the petition. If there are children involved, the court will not hear your case sooner than 90 days after filing. 

Many couples can reach a written agreement regarding financial support, property and the children before their hearing. Any agreements made by the parties will be reviewed by the court, and if the court finds the agreements acceptable, then they will make those agreements part of the final order. If the parties’ legal separation is eventually converted into a divorce, the final order of the divorce may adopt the terms of the legal separation agreement as to property division, alimony, financial support, and child custody.

Do You Need A Lawyer To Handle Separation Agreements?

It is possible to file for a legal separation in Tennessee without a lawyer. With the increase in information found online, many couples think they can resolve their issues without the need or cost of legal help. However, search engines are not a replacement for real, professional legal help and advice. If you are considering filing for a legal separation from your spouse or want to divorce, it is important to hire the help of a licensed and qualified attorney. They can help you navigate the complexities of the law regarding marriage and will ensure a fair outcome.

An experienced family law attorney can inform you of all of your options before you make your decision. If there are children involved, it is crucial to have legal help because your parenting time will be forever changed. 

If you’re still trying to decide between legal separation and divorce, contact me, Jedidiah McKeehan, at (865) 294-8008 for a free consultation today. Let’s make sure you have all the information and understand the options as it comes to this difficult life decision.