When a couple decides they want to get divorced, one of three things usually occurs. The first, where the marriage is entirely done, with no chance of resolution, leads directly to a divorce. The second involves that kind of vague space known as “separation,” which generally ends up leading to divorce as well. Finally, there are those marriages which lead to separation, but then remain in that state indefinitely. What are the legal differences between divorce and separation, and why might staying separated be the right choice for a family instead of a divorce?
Choosing a trial separation
We use the term separation to describe two different but related concepts: trial separation and legal separation. A trial separation is just that: an exploration of the experience of being apart, without any binding legal consequences. The benefits of a trial separation are that it can be easy to begin and end, without any paperwork or legal intervention. However, that lack of legal input can be a double-edged sword. If there are any disputes over child custody, child support, alimony, or any other financial reality of maintaining two households, there is very little legal recourse available. Therefore, if the separation is even the least bit contentious, or has the potential to become so, you should come speak to one of our family lawyers, so we can help you plan.
Legal separation as a step towards divorce, or away from it
If a couple does decide to pursue legal separation, the process is very similar to a divorce. A court will determine any spousal or child support, child visitation and custody, and distribution of property and assets.
In a legal separation – and this is really, really important – the couple remains legally married. This can be important for religious issues, or in order for one person to remain on the other’s health insurance. If there is a reasonable hope that the relationship can be salvaged, a legal separation may be a better choice. In cases where there is no expectation for a resolution beyond an uncontested divorce, a legal separation allows for a slower, less abrupt transition from cohabitation and marriage to individual futures.
But it also means that, if you meet a nice man or woman at the gym, and you fall in love, you cannot pursue that relationship. It would be considered adultery, and that’s grounds for divorce in Tennessee.
Making the decision to pursue legal separation is a huge leap: working with a skilled Maryville divorce attorney from Shepherd and Associates, P.C. can help to ease your concerns and to inform your decisions. If you’re unsure about alimony, custody, or distribution of shared assets– let us help. You can reach us at 865.225.9655, or by filling out this contact form.