Middle Tennessee Family Law | Tiffany Johns Law Office

Divorce vs. Legal Separation in Tennessee

Divorce vs. Legal Separation: Practical and Affordable Nashville Attorney Explains Your Options

Effective and knowledgeable family law attorneys guiding you along the way

There comes a point for some people when they realize that problems in their marriage require action, but they don’t know where to turn for help and guidance. Tiffany Johns is a knowledgeable and compassionate attorney at the Nashville office of Middle Tennessee Family Law answers your questions and concerns, so you can decide which choice, divorce or legal separation, is the right one for you.

The primary distinction between a divorce and a legal separation has to do with the effect of each on the marital status of the parties. A divorce can only be granted by a state court because it legally terminates the marriage. Once divorced, the parties are free to enter into relationships with other people and remarry if they so desire.

Under a legal separation, a married couple is allowed to split up and live separate and apart from each other. It may seem like a divorce, but the key distinction is that the individuals are still deemed by the state to be legally married to each other. There are, however, situations in which a legal separation might be a good alternative to a divorce, and our Nashville family law attorney has the experience and knowledge to guide you down the right path.

The advantages of getting a legal separation vs. divorce

Although it might, at first, appear to be a disadvantage, the fact that you and your spouse are still married while living apart under a legal separation may benefit you for the following reasons:

  • Health Insurance Coverage: Most health insurance plans will not permit divorced couples to continue insurance coverage for their former spouse. This is not the case when you and your spouse are legally separated.
  • Social Security Retirement Spousal Benefits: Depending upon the employment history of you or your spouse, one of you might not be able to qualify for retirement benefits on your own. Spousal benefits allow a nonworking spouse to claim benefits under his or her spouse’s account, but the marriage must last for at least 10 years. A separation instead of a divorce would accomplish this if you and your spouse are close to the 10-year mark.
  • Religious Beliefs: Divorce may not be recognized by the couple’s religion, or, in other instances, they might be prohibited from remarrying within their religion. A legal separation permits couples who find themselves in such circumstances to live apart without violating the principles of their religion.
  • Military Pensions: Military pensions are treated the same as pensions earned in the civilian sector except for something referred to as the “10/10 rule” that allows the non-military spouse to receive direct payment of his or her share of pension benefits directly from the government. Remaining married, but living apart under a legal separation, might be a good idea for couples who have yet to satisfy the 10/10 rule.
  • Grounds for Divorce: Living separate and apart under a legal separation for two years or more is one of the grounds for divorce in Tennessee provided the couple do not have any minor children.

When a divorce might be better than a legal separation

Legal separation and divorce both allow a married couple to resolve issues such as:

However, the fact that the parties remain married following a legal separation might not be in the best interest of one or both of the parties. For example, a spouse contributing to a private retirement plan during a legal separation may have to share it with his or her spouse in a divorce. Some retirement plans are marital assets in Tennessee.

A trusted Nashville family law attorney protects your rights and property

Tiffany Johns is the Nashville family law attorney at Middle Tennessee Family Law, and is a skilled negotiator who helps clients achieve a successful resolution to their marital issues. We are available for evening or weekend appointments, and the initial consultation is free. Schedule an appointment by calling 615-771-6944 or send us an email.

 

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