If you and your spouse are planning changes to your marriage, you might consider a legal separation rather than divorce. Sometimes, there are good reasons to postpone a decision about divorce, even when it is clear the marriage is broken.
Couples should know that obtaining a legal separation can still be complex. A Red Bank separation agreements lawyer could help you manage the entire process of legally separating from your spouse. Reach out to a knowledgeable family attorney today to get started.
Although some people assume the legal separation process is less complicated than divorce, couples need to complete many of the same tasks to separate as they would if they were divorcing. If the couple reconciles during the separation, they need to secure an order of reconciliation from a judge to reinstitute their marriage.
Sometimes couples have practical reasons for seeking a legal separation rather than a divorce. Their religion might prohibit divorce. The couple might seek to remain legally married so that one spouse can remain covered under the other’s health insurance. Similarly, they might want to stay married long enough for a spouse to qualify to receive Social Security based on the other spouse’s earnings or receive pension benefits based on the other spouse’s military service.
Note that each spouse must agree to a legal separation. If one spouse wants to terminate the marriage, a court will honor that desire if they meet the requirements for divorce in the state. An experienced Red Bank attorney could help a couple evaluate whether a legal separation is the best option for them.
The separation procedure in the state of Tennessee is like the procedure for divorce. A spouse must file a petition with the court seeking a hearing on their legal separation from the other spouse. The spouse filing must have been a resident in the state for the six months preceding the petition, although an exception might apply in a specific case.
If a couple without minor children submits property division and spousal support agreements, a court might grant their legal separation in 60 days. A couple with minor children also must submit agreements regarding child custody, visitation, and child support. If they do so, a court might grant a legal separation in 90 days.
Although the agreements cover different topics, they are presented as a single document called a separation agreement. Both spouses must sign it. Once a court issues the legal separation, the separation agreement is a legally enforceable contract.
Many couples seeking a legal separation have already thought through how their separate lives will look, and a well-practiced lawyer in Red Bank could help them formalize their decisions into a separation agreement. Other couples might need to work through attorneys or with a mediator to reach consensus on significant issues.
A couple must divide their marital property, including their debts, equitably. Once a court issues a legal separation decree, each spouse can acquire separate property, and the other spouse will have no right to it. However, a legal separation does not extinguish one spouse’s liability for the other spouse’s debts.
Couples who enter a legal separation must agree about alimony, also called spousal support. In general, courts will award alimony to the financially needy spouse if the other spouse can pay. Couples may create a spousal support arrangement or waive alimony altogether, so long as they both agree.
Parents must determine where the children will live and how much time the other parent will have with them. Parents also must determine who will have decision-making authority and how they will settle disputes regarding the children. Tennessee Code Annotated §36-6-106 requires courts to analyze custody agreements (also called parenting plans) to ensure they meet the best interests of the children. A court could reject a parenting plan that does not meet this standard.
Child support cannot be waived in this state, even if the custodial parent does not seek it. Both parents must contribute to their children’s support. Minimum child support payments are set using guidelines. Parents can calculate their child support obligations and agree to a payment schedule they include in their separation agreement. A court will not approve a child support agreement if it does not meet the children’s best interests.
If you and your spouse have decided that legal separation is the right step for you, the two of you will need to agree on multiple issues before a court will issue a decree. Many couples need help and legal advice to create fair, enforceable agreements.
A Red Bank separation agreements lawyer could work with you to ensure that your agreements accurately reflect your understanding and put them in a form a court will accept. Make an appointment to discuss your situation with a dedicated attorney as soon as you start considering legal separation.