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Choosing Between Divorce and Legal Separation

When married parties decide to separate, they may both believe that divorce is the only option. However, they may also opt for legal separation, which provides a slightly different outcome that may be preferable for a variety of reasons.

Divorce is most often the best choice if the parties feel certain that the relationship is over and there are no plans to attempt reconciliation. In addition, if either party plans to date or remarry soon after separating, a divorce is probably the better option.

In Tennessee, divorcing parties must establish grounds for divorce before the process can be finalized. The options include citing irreconcilable differences, adultery, bigamy, impotence, willful or malicious desertion for at least one year, criminal conviction, cruel or inhumane treatment, attempted murder, refusal to join the spouse in Tennessee, habitual drunkenness or drug abuse, abandonment, or indignities that render a spouse’s position intolerable.

Legal separation, on the other hand, may be a better choice if the parties are not yet certain they want to end their marriage, or if neither spouse plans to remarry anytime soon. In some cases, the spouses may want to live separately, but would like to preserve their covenant vows for reasons related to personal preferences or religious doctrine. In addition, some spouses with children decide to legally separate and delay a divorce until the children are older or leave home.

The grounds to file for a legal separation in Tennessee are the same as divorce grounds. For either arrangement, the filing party must be a state resident, or if the grounds for divorce occurred in another state, the filing party must have resided in Tennessee for at least six months before filing.

If you are considering filing for a divorce or legal separation, a divorce attorney can help you navigate this difficult process. Speak with a Tennessee family lawyer to learn more.  

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