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What's the difference between legal separation and divorce?

If you live in Tennessee and your marriage has taken a turn for the worse, you may consider divorce. If you believe that there's potential for reconciliation or need certain benefits offered by marriage, you and your spouse could consider a legal separation instead. A legal separation requires that you and your spouse divide your assets and make decisions about child custody, visitation and support. It also requires paperwork getting filed with the courts. Typically, this process is simpler if both spouses agree to the separation. Like with divorce, the non-filing spouse can file a response or contest the filing.

As with divorce, you can file for legal separation based on cause, like adultery or alienation. Just like during a divorce, the spouse accused of infidelity or other wrongdoing can respond to that claim. You could still receive a legal separation, though perhaps not for the reason you had hoped. The courts will weigh documentation and testimony and determine if they can grant the separation. If you and your former spouse agree with the separation, it can be a quick and relatively painless process. If you later decide to divorce, it is relatively simple to convert a Tennessee legal separation to a divorce.

Medical insurance, retirement and other considerations

You may wonder why someone who was unhappy would choose to remain married, even if the state recognizes the separation. One of the most common reasons is tax incentives. You and your former spouse may not have the same amount of income. It isn't uncommon for the non-custodial parent to make more money. Remaining married but separated may provide tax benefits for both you and your spouse. Even if you file separately, the higher wage earner can claim deductions for any children on tax forms. The financial benefit could outweigh the social headache of not finalizing your divorce.

Similarly, if one spouse or any of the children have a serious medical condition, you may separate but remain married to ensure access to a quality health insurance plan. The custodial parent may not be able to afford the same policy, and the person with medical needs may not be able to tolerate a disruption to prescriptions or other treatments.

Both separation and divorce require compromise

No matter how you choose to handle it, dividing assets and determining issues like child custody and visitation can become complicated quickly. Trying to communicate calmly with your former spouse and compromise on issues can make the process simpler and easier on everyone involved. The less you have to fight one another, the easier the divorce or legal separation process will be on your children. Agreeing on terms can also save you both time and money.

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