Legal Separation

Knoxville Legal Separation Attorneys

What you need to know about splitting up in Tennessee

Getting divorced is a monumental event in most people’s lives. It’s not something you just add to your to-do list for a random Tuesday. It takes a lot of heartache, planning, negotiating, and tons of paperwork – and that’s just for one where everybody is getting along. But for some people, divorce is even tougher. Ending a marriage means a heck of a lot more than just splitting up with their spouse. It means no more health insurance. Maybe a divorce is against your religious beliefs. Or perhaps you’re not quite ready to divorce, but not quite ready to reconcile either.

So where does that leave you? In some kind of weird marriage purgatory? No – you and your spouse can get legally separated, which can let you both take a breather from each other without worrying that one of y’all is gonna run off with everything. The Knoxville family law attorneys at LaFevor & Slaughter have decades of experience working with couples in Tennessee, guiding them through legal issues like divorce and separation with compassion. You get to focus on you, and let us focus on the tough stuff.

What’s the difference between legal separation and divorce in Tennessee?

As every lawyer ever always says, nobody gets married with the intention of getting divorced. But if your marriage isn’t working out, for whatever reasons, questions about divorce are probably going to come up. It’s okay if you and your spouse aren’t sure if you want to stay together, but aren’t sure if you want to do something as permanent as divorce, either. You can think of separation as a middle ground.

Anyone can move out and “separate” from a marriage, right? But you’re not gonna be legally separated until a judge makes it so. The formal phrasing is “Legal separation shall not affect the bonds of matrimony but shall permit the parties to cease matrimonial cohabitation.” What that basically means is you don’t have to live together anymore, and you can take all the steps you would for a divorce, except for the actual dissolution of your marriage.

Just like a divorce, you can file for separation under irreconcilable differences, which is also called a no-fault divorce. If you can’t do this, you’ll have to file under one of Tennessee’s 15 grounds for divorce, which include:

  • Abandonment
  • Adultery
  • Cruel and inhuman treatment
  • Felony conviction
  • Living apart for two years or longer

A thorough separation agreement can include alimony, child custody, child support, and division of property. It means that if you and your spouse separate but don’t divorce, you and your kids are still protected.

Do we really need to get separated? Can’t we just live apart and leave it at that?

If you and your spouse decide to take a break, and that break stretches from days to weeks, it’s time to talk to an attorney. At some point a “breather” turns into a separation, and your kids and your own sanity are way too important to let fall by the wayside.

Take a look at how a separation agreement can benefit you, and how not having one can, well, bite you on the backside if you don’t pay attention.

With a legal separation agreement:

  • Duties regarding the mortgage payment and upkeep of the marital home are clearly defined
  • Joint checking accounts, joint credit cards and other sources of debt are separated
  • You can still file your income tax jointly, if that gives you a tax advantage

Without a legal separation agreement:

  • Your spouse could allow the home to fall into disrepair, leading to loss of property value
  • Your spouse could continue to run up debt for which you would be jointly responsible
  • You must file your income tax separately
  • Your spouse might disappear and make it really hard to divorce their sorry behinds when you can’t find them to have them served!

Some couples, even if the marriage is completely over, would rather do the legal separation thing instead of a full-out divorce. One of you might need the employee benefits from the other. You might be thisclose to qualifying for military benefits, pensions, or Social Security. Sometimes it just makes financial sense to wait a bit before ending your marriage permanently.

Talk to the divorce and separation attorneys at LaFevor & Slaughter in Knoxville to find the most beneficial solution for you and your partner.

How long do you have to be separated before getting a divorce in Tennessee?

After your separation agreement is approved, you can stay separated indefinitely. Forever, if you want. One thing, though. Once you hit two years of legal separation, you automatically hit one of those grounds for divorce we talked about earlier – “For a continuous period of two (2) or more years that commenced prior to or after April 18, 1985, both parties have lived in separate residences, have not cohabited as man and wife during such period, and there are no minor children of the parties.”

Basically? After two years of separation, you can file for divorce on those grounds and your spouse can’t stop you.

Can I date while I’m separated?

Can you? It’s a free country; you can do whatever you’d like. Should you? Absolutely not. Dating while you’re separated can cause a huge amount of problems that you just don’t need.

Here’s the thing. It’s not illegal to date while you’re separated (that would be crazy), but if you’re thinking about it, you must consider the consequences. It can screw up your divorce case and certain judges might even look at it as adultery or marital misconduct. Which can bleed over into things like –, alimony, and co-parenting decisions. Anything that makes the relationship between you and your spouse even more uncomfortable is just gonna get worse over time. When bad feelings take control, an amicable separation can turn chaotic and contentious on a dime.

Dating while separated can also negatively affect the kids, whether they’re young or grown, causing family rifts that could last for years, or even forever. What we’re saying is proceed with caution, and if you have any questions about legal separation and dating, take a minute and give our attorneys a call for guidance.

And, of course, you can’t get married to someone else while you’re separated. That requires a full legal divorce.

Wedding Rings

Do I have to pay alimony while I’m separated in Tennessee?

Legal separation is just like divorce in that the court can (or you can agree on) award alimony to one spouse. Who gets that spousal support and how much they’ll get depends on a variety of factors as well as the final decision of the court. Keep in mind that if you’re awarded a certain amount of alimony during a separation, and then divorce later, you might not necessarily be awarded the same amount of alimony during the divorce. A Knoxville lawyer from LaFevor & Slaughter can sit down with you and work out numbers based on your personal situation.

We can help you transition from legal separation to absolute divorce

If you have lived under a legal separation agreement that defines issues such as child support, child custody and alimony, the court will often use it as the basis for a final divorce decree. A spouse who wants to change the terms after living with them for a couple of years is probably going to face an uphill battle. This is why if you don’t take care to set up a detailed legal separation agreement, you might end up with a truckload of post-divorce issues that’ll waste your time, your money, and probably your patience.

More about legal separation:

Contact a knowledgeable legal separation attorney in Knoxville

For complete information on the advantages and disadvantages of filing for a legal separation in Tennessee, talk to the family law attorneys at LaFevor & Slaughter. We give all our clients personalized attention and work to find the best possible solutions for you and your family. To schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys, call us at (865) 637-6258 or fill out our contact form today.