Legal Separation Maryville TN

Maryville Legal Separation Attorneys

Navigating the difference between separation and divorce in Blount County & East Tennessee

Many couples considering divorce choose to separate first. A legal separation gives each spouse a chance to cool off, work on the terms of ending the marriage, and for some couples, separating provides a good alternative to divorce. Separation and divorce are quite similar, except a divorce terminates a marriage, while a legal separation does not. Each offers pros and cons, depending on a married couple’s circumstances.

Once you or partner leave the marital home for good, the law considers you separated. You can also file a formal separation agreement to settle matters of property division, alimony, child support, and custody.

Are you and your spouse considering ending your marriage, or putting it on pause? The Maryville divorce attorneys at Shepherd & Long, P.C. can work with you to determine what solution is best. We’ll talk about your needs, future goals, and family concerns, then work on a suitable strategy for a successful outcome. Our skilled lawyers have over four decades of combined experience.


Ravyn Kennedy
"Kevin is an amazing lawyer that fought for my custody and got me a quick and easy divorce! Very compassionate and determined."

Ravyn Kennedy

Danielle Kennedy
"Kevin Shepherd helped my family with a heartwrenching custody case. He was compassionate and professional. We could not have asked for a better attorney."

Danielle Kennedy

Legal Separation Tennessee

Why get separated instead of divorced in Tennessee?

You and your spouse likely have your own reasons for wanting to legally separate rather than divorce. Some couples’ religions frown upon divorce, so separation is a better option. Other reasons couple choose to separate instead of divorce include:

  • Tax benefits for each spouse
  • Remaining married to keep immigration benefits
  • Healthcare benefits for one spouse
  • Staying married to qualify for Social Security or other benefits
  • Maintaining a beneficiary or fiduciary interest in a trust or estate

With a legal separation, neither spouse can remarry until they finalize a divorce.

What are the grounds for separation in Tennessee?

Grounds for separation in TN are the same as for divorce. You and your spouse can file for a legal separation under irreconcilable differences, also called no-fault. This means you and your spouse both agree on the separation and the terms of the separation, including settling things like spousal support and child custody/visitation.

You’re also eligible for a legal separation if you and your spouse have lived apart and separately for two years (without minor children). Note that living apart and separately means in different residences – not a separate bedroom, or the basement, or a guest house on the property. Separately also means no intimate relations with your spouse.

If you and your spouse can’t agree on separating, or need to file a fault-based separation, Tennessee offers 15 grounds for divorce. These grounds include adultery, cruel and inhumane treatment, drug and alcohol abuse, felony conviction, and abandonment.

Do I have to be separated before I can get divorced?

No. Here in Maryville and throughout Tennessee, you can get divorced without being legally separated first. By the same token, if you and your spouse are legally separated, you don’t necessarily have to follow up by getting a divorce. You can stay legally separated for as long as you want, or you don’t have to be legally separated at all.

Can I date while I’m separated?

Technically, you can. But is it a good idea? No. Dating before you’re legally separated (or divorced) is considered adultery and provides the other spouse grounds for a fault-based divorce. Additionally, if you begin dating or co-habitating soon after legal separation, the court may see that as an indication you began an affair during the marriage – whether you did or not. Additionally, moving in with a new partner during your separation can affect child custody issues. Always speak to an experienced Maryville family law attorney at Shepherd & Long if you or your spouse are considering dating.

Can I get alimony during a separation? Do I have to pay alimony during a separation?

Yes, to both, but only if you have a legal separation agreement. Many couples opt to put together a separation agreement before they formally divorce, and then base their divorce settlement on that original agreement. Just like in a divorce, you and your spouse can settle matters like child custody, child support, property division, and alimony. After two years of legal separation, you and your spouse can finalize that agreement into a divorce decree.

You can also use your separation time to separate things like joint bank accounts, credit cards, and any other joint debts and assets. Our East Tennessee divorce lawyers can sit down with you and provide the guidance you need to make these decisions and protect your best interests at the same time.

The pros and cons of legal separation in Tennessee

Just like any decision in life, separation comes with pros and cons. Everyone’s situation is different, so what might be a pro for someone else might be a con for you.

Pros of legal separation in Maryville

Some of the benefits of legal separation include:

  • If a couple isn’t sure if they’re ready to divorce, but need some time apart to resolve their marital issues
  • If a couple has ethical or religious objections to divorce
  • Separation allows one spouse to remain on the other’s spouse’s insurance policy
  • Retaining tax, Social Security, or pension benefits for married couples
  • For military spouses, remaining married for eligibility for the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA), which requires that a couple be married for at least 10 years

Cons of legal separation in Maryville

Disadvantages of separation include:

  • Legal separation is similar to divorce and can still be a difficult and complicated process when issues are in dispute
  • Some insurance policies may not allow coverage for a spouse if a couple is separated
  • Even during separation, if spouses have joint bank accounts or debt, without a strong agreement, each could be liable for each other’s debts
  • Dating while separated is considered adultery in Tennessee

The reliable attorneys at Shepherd & Long provide informed guidance and can help you decide whether legal separation is the best solution for you.

Strategic Maryville legal separation attorneys

For many Tennessee couples, legally separation is the best choice for their personal family needs. If you think separating may be the right decision for you, the attorneys at Shepherd & Long, P.C. can help. We give you the information you need and help guide you toward a successful outcome. For more information, or to schedule a consultation, call us at 865-982-8060 or fill out our contact form. We regularly represent clients in Madisonville, Oak Ridge, Lenoir City and throughout East Tennessee.