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Legal Separations Vs. Divorce: What's The Difference?

Legal Separation Vs Divorce Concept
You may have heard about couples legally separating rather than divorcing. In Tennessee, there is always the option to legally separate a spouse rather than divorce a spouse, but there are some differences. If you're thinking about either of these actions, there are a few things you should know.

What is a Legal Separation?

A legal separation is a way to get divorced without getting divorced. In a legal separation, you will still divide assets, discuss financial support, and figure out child custody. The only major difference between a legal separation and a divorce is that you can't get remarried, because you're still married.

Separating removes future legal and financial entanglements that you have with your spouse. You will live separately, both physically and legally, and be able to be your own independent entities as far as debts, assets, and other issues are concerned.

A separation can go on indefinitely for as long as both spouses desire. However, there's a caveat: if spouses are separated longer than two years, an absolute divorce can be granted to either spouse even if the other spouse objects. This divorce is not going to alter anything significantly except insofar as the spouses will now be free to remarry and will no longer hold themselves to be married.

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of a Legal Separation?

There is some belief that a legal separation is going to be faster, easier, or cheaper than a divorce. Generally, this isn't true. Completing a legal separation is going to have a similar cost as to a divorce because it involves the same intricacies. Further, if the same spouses want to later file for absolute divorce, they may end up spending more to complete the two processes individually.

Legal separation doesn't impart many specific advantages over an absolute divorce, though it may feel as though it is less final. For most people, the ability to remarry is going to be an important one.

However, legal separation does continue a couple's "married" status in other ways, which can be important in very unique situations. A couple may need to remain married in order to continue getting a discount on health insurance, or because they are maintaining a specific estate. 

There is one clear advantage to a separation: a separation can be reversed at any time. If the couple decide that they wish to be married again, they do not have to remarry. Instead, they can simply cease to be separated. This is why separation used to be a requirement before divorce; it can be used as a "cooling off" period between spouses who want to be separated but aren't sure if they would like to get back together.

Choosing Between Divorce and Separation

Unless there is some compelling reason to separate, most couples would be better served by getting a divorce. If a divorce isn't acquired now, it will likely be acquired later, as one spouse is going to have to divorce the other to get remarried. On the other hand, a separation can be used as a stopgap measure in a marriage that is not working now, but that the couple hopes may work later.

Both of these solutions can be discussed with a legal professional to determine which would be the right move legally or financially. For those who do not have significant assets or debts to resolve, the process can be quite simple. 

Are you thinking about going through a separation or a divorce? You can learn more about the process (and figure out which process is best for you) by contacting Martin A. Kooperman, Attorney at Law