Looking for a Different Option
Not all couples contemplating divorce are necessarily ready for or are in a position to divorce and ask the question, “Is there an alternative to divorce?” Many times, couples want to work on and save their relationship, or sometimes they have reasons to stay married yet desire or need to live separately. So what are the alternatives to divorce in Tennessee?
One alternative to divorce is legal separation. In order to obtain a legal separation in Tennessee, you must take the same steps you would take to file for divorce. All issues such as grounds, child custody, support, property division, and alimony will have to be resolved before the separation is finalized. The main difference between divorce and legal separation is that a couple is still married when and after a legal separation is granted by a court.
There are various reasons for choosing a legal separation rather than a divorce. You may have religious or faith-based reasons that prevent you from seeking a divorce. Sometimes one spouse needs to remain on the other spouse’s healthcare plan. Regardless of the reason for legal separation, this option is available to couples in Tennessee.
Should a legally separated couple choose to dissolve their marriage and get divorced, they may file for divorce after two years of legal separation. However, this is not mandatory, and a couple may remain legally separated as long as they choose to do so.
Benefits of Legal Separation
A couple might choose to seek legal separation over divorce for various reasons. As mentioned above, if legally separated but not divorced, a spouse is able to remain on the other spouse’s insurance plan as they remain legally married. When a divorce is granted, the parties are not allowed to remain on the same health insurance plan at the same cost, and usually, one spouse or the other must purchase alternate health insurance. This may prove to be cost-prohibitive or unreasonable if one spouse has major health problems and needs the same type of healthcare coverage as is offered by the spouse’s employer.
Because assets are divided in a legal separation, the ability to protect valuable marital assets might be a reason for choosing legal separation over a divorce. Perhaps one spouse has a gambling or drug problem; perhaps your spouse is depleting assets by giving them to others for some reason or another. Maybe your spouse is a spendthrift and is steadily depleting marital assets by overspending. Maybe you want to stay married, but you want to protect your share of the marital assets as well. A legal separation allows you to do this.
Because spouses remain married even if legally separated, there may be benefits under the laws in Tennessee regarding intestate succession, wills and estates, to stay married. Spouses are entitled to certain benefits under Tennessee’s probate laws; these benefits are not available to divorced spouses. Depending on the circumstances, if you are still legally married when your spouse dies, you may be able to receive a year’s support or a larger share of your spouse’s estate because you are still married.
It is important to note that legally separated couples are not free to remarry, as they are still married under the law. If you become involved in another relationship with someone other than your spouse, it cannot be held against you if a divorce is ever filed by your spouse, but you cannot legally marry while you are legally separated.
Consulting with a Tennessee Family Law Attorney
One way to help determine whether divorce or legal separation is right for your situation is to consult with a family law attorney who can guide you in making the best decision for you and your unique situation. At Dowden, Worley, Jewell & Olswing, PLLC, we’ve worked with numerous clients and have assisted them in making the decisions for their future and have guided them to successful resolutions. We’re prepared to do the same for you.
To schedule a consultation, call us at (901) 295-4635 or visit us online.