Legal separation is available in Tennessee, but it is not very popular. A legal separation is almost the same as divorce except neither party can remarry as they are still married in the eyes of the law. Depending on your personal circumstances, a legal separation might be a good option if you need to remain legally married, but you know that your relationship is over.

There are many reasons for a couple to choose legal separation over divorce that remain personal to each couple’s relationship. A few of the possible reasons that one might opt for legal separation include:

  • Insurance coverage. The marriage is kept legally intact so that one spouse can continue to have health insurance coverage under the other spouse’s provider.
  • Retirement benefits. Couples can delay divorce until the marriage has lasted long enough for the other spouse to qualify for Social Security and pension benefits.
  • Religious reasons. A couple may realize that they no longer want to be married to one another but their religious beliefs do not permit divorce.

Need for court intervention

A party may need the intervention of the court to put a “Band-Aid” on their situation until they meet the residency requirements for a divorce in Tennessee.  For example, let’s say your spouse has left the marital home and refuses to pay his/her portion of the mortgage and other household expenses. You can’t file for divorce because you haven’t lived in the state for at least six months. However, you can file for legal separation even if you haven’t lived in Tennessee for six months. You can always convert it to a divorce proceeding once you have met the six month requirement.

What happens in a legal separation

Just as in a divorce, the couple’s assets and debts are divided, and spousal support, child support and child custody are settled in a legal separation agreement. After two years or more if the separated couple decided to follow through with the divorce, the separation agreement can be finalized to a divorce decree. (Tennessee Code Annotated; Volume 6A, Title 36, Sections 36-4-102 and 36-4-119)

The same 15 grounds for divorce apply to legal separation, but there is also the no-fault option when the couple simply has irreconcilable differences. The process for filing for legal separation is the same as for divorce.

If you are fairly certain that you will not reconcile and end the separation, it is important to separate your financial lives as if you were divorcing. The money in a joint bank account belongs to both spouses, so each party must get their own, separate account. Other joint accounts such as credit cards and utility bills need to be changed along with leases and mortgages.

Ending a marriage whether by legal separation or divorce can be fraught with emotional turmoil. With all of the huge changes going on in your life you will have lots of questions, and your Nashville family law attorney has all the answers.

If you and your partner are legal separation or divorce services, our firm can help you move forward. Please contact Miller Upshaw Family Law, PLLC for more information.