According to the Legal Information Institute of Cornell University, a legal separation is a limited divorce that results in the termination of cohabitation by a married couple without a change of marital status or complete dissolution of the marriage. This is an alternative that some couples choose if it is against their religious beliefs to divorce, or when they no longer want to live together but they want to remain equally responsible for their joint obligations and duties.
Determine if it is in your best interest to occupy a separate residence from your spouse instead of completely dissolving your marriage. In the state of Tennessee, you may file for a legal separation if you feel that there are sufficient grounds for divorce and are not ready to legally terminate your marriage. Legal separation will not change your marital status but will allow you as a married couple to occupy separate residences. While legal separation primarily stipulates residency restrictions, the court may be petitioned to establish provisions on child custody, child visitation, spousal support and property issues as a part of the legal separation order. An absolute divorce may be granted if there is no reconciliation, a petition for divorce is filed, or if there has been two years or more of legal separation.
Verify that your situation satifies the residency requirements for filing a petition of legal separation in the state of Tennessee. Legal separation may be granted if any of the 16 grounds of divorce are present, according to the State of Tennessee Statute 36-4-101: Grounds for Divorce from Bonds of Matrimony. In order to file, you must complete and file a petition with the City Clerk in the county in which you last shared a residence, where you currently reside, or where your spouse resides if you are a non-resident of the state. Additionally, you or your spouse must have been a resident of the state of Tennessee for a minimum of six months before you are able to file, unless the basis of your filing occurred in the state of Tennessee--such as your partner committing a crime or adultery in Tennessee, but you reside in another state. Military personnel must have been a resident of the state at least one year prior to filing unless the incident that causes either of you to seek separation was committed within the state.
Confirm that you have sufficient grounds to file for legal separation per the state of Tennessee divorce statutes. In order to file for divorce or legal separation, the state of Tennessee has issued specific grounds that stipulate whether there is specific cause for legal changes to your marital agreement. Listed below are the specified reasons that you may petition the court for a legal separation as outlined in Tenneesee Statute 36-4-101: (1) Either party, at the time of the contract, was and still is naturally impotent and incapable of procreation GO (2) Either party has knowingly entered into a second marriage, in violation of a previous marriage, still subsisting GO (3) Either party has committed adultery GO (4) Willful or malicious desertion or absence of either party, without a reasonable cause, for one (1) whole year GO (5) Being convicted of any crime that, by the laws of the state, renders the party infamous GO (6) Being convicted of a crime that, by the laws of the state, is declared to be a felony, and sentenced to confinement in the penitentiary GO (7) Either party has attempted the life of the other, by poison or any other means showing malice GO (8) Refusal, on the part of a spouse, to remove with that person's spouse to this state, without a reasonable cause, and being willfully absent from the spouse residing in Tennessee for two (2) years GO (9) The woman was pregnant at the time of the marriage, by another person, without the knowledge of the husband GO (10) Habitual drunkenness or abuse of narcotic drugs of either party, when the spouse has contracted either such habit after marriage GO (11) The husband or wife is guilty of such cruel and inhuman treatment or conduct towards the spouse as renders cohabitation unsafe and improper, which may also be referred to in pleadings as inappropriate marital conduct GO (12) The husband or wife has offered such indignities to the spouse's person as to render the spouse's position intolerable, and thereby forced the spouse to withdraw GO (13) The husband or wife has abandoned the spouse or turned the spouse out of doors for no just cause, and has refused or neglected to provide for the spouse while having the ability to so provide GO (14) Irreconcilable differences between the parties; and (15) For a continuous period of two (2) or more years that commenced prior to or after April 18, 1985, both parties have lived in separate residences, have not cohabited as man and wife during such period, and there are no minor children of the parties. (b) A complaint or petition for divorce on any ground for divorce listed in this section must have been on file for sixty (60) days before being heard if the parties have no unmarried child under eighteen (18) years of age, and must have been on file at least ninety (90) days before being heard if the parties have an unmarried child under eighteen (18) years of age. The sixty-day or ninety-day period shall commence on the date the complaint or petition is filed.
Obtain all of the information necessary to file the petition. The petition for legal separation is called a bill of particulars and requires that you provide the grounds on which the petition is being filed. You must also provide full names, mailing addresses, date of birth and birth place, social security numbers, names and social security numbers of yourself, your spouse, and any minor children or children born during marriage. You must also provide the court with information on either of your previous marriages, as well as the race or ethnicity of you and your spouse. Additionally, if you or your spouse has obtained legal representation, the lawyer or agent acting on either of your behalf must also be listed on the petition. In addition to submitting the above information, you as the filing party, will also need to provide the clerk of the court with a 8 ½ x 11 in envelope labeled with your name as well as your spouse’s name. The envelope will then be marked by a docket or case number. The clerk will file stamp the documents and envelope. Subsequently, the contents of the envelope will be sealed and stored in your case file. After your petition has been filed, temporary injunctions will remain in effect for you and your spouse until your court appearance. These temporary injunctions will prohibit actions in regards to marital assets and property, insurance premiums, behavior, children, residency, and evidence. Upon your court appearance, the judge will issue a ruling on the allocation of marital property, visitation arrangements and custodial issues, and any other matters regarding the legal separation.
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