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Knoxville Divorce Lawyer > Blog > Divorce > When Couples Legally Separate Before They Divorce

When Couples Legally Separate Before They Divorce


Lots of unhappily married people will tell you that they are married in name only.  They get so little financial help and so little emotional companionship from their spouses that it is just like being alone.  Meanwhile, their spouses are still connected to them in ways that make it impossible to feel a true sense of relief; they still share a bank account and, in some cases, a house.  Some couples are sure that they do not want to live together anymore, but for various reasons, they do not want to divorce.  A legal separation is an appealing choice for those couples.  A legal separation enables you and your ex to develop a framework for cooperating as former partners, but it allows you to remain legally married.  If you are considering getting legally separated from your spouse, contact a Tennessee family law attorney.

How Legal Separation Works in Tennessee

The process of getting legally separated in Tennessee is very similar to the process of getting divorced.  One spouse files a petition for legal separation, and the other spouse files a response to the petition.  Each spouse makes requests regarding division of marital assets and, if applicable, alimony or child support.  If the couple has minor children, the court will even order a parenting plan like those for divorced parents and for unmarried couples who have children together.  In other words, the court requires the couple to reach an agreement on co-parenting and on financial matters relating to the end of their relationship as a couple.  The difference between a legal separation and a divorce is that you are still legally married.  If you and your spouse reconcile, you do not need to have a new marriage ceremony; your original wedding vows and marriage certificate are still valid.  Likewise, if one of you wants to marry someone else, you must first legally divorce your spouse.

Details of the Pless Case

Sheila and Robert Pless married in 1987; for most of their marriage, she did not have a paying job and homeschooled their three children.  They legally separated in 2009, although over the next few years, they intermittently attended counseling in an effort to reconcile.  Their legal separation agreement stipulated that Robert must pay Sheila $2,000 per month in alimony in addition to child support and that the amount of alimony was not subject to modification.  In order to meet these obligations, Robert lived very modestly after moving out of the marital home; for five months, he even lived in his van while working full-time.  Robert filed for divorce in 2016, by which time all the children had reached adulthood.  Upon reviewing the couple’s finances, the court reduced the amount of money Robert would pay Sheila as per the terms of the divorce decree.  Sheila appealed the decision, but the appeals court affirmed the trial court’s ruling.

Contact Us Today for Help

If you and your spouse no longer live together but are not ready to divorce, a Knoxville divorce attorney can help you determine if a legal separation is right for you.  Contact Patrick L. Looper in Knoxville, Tennessee for a consultation.




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