How to File for a Marriage Separation in Tennessee

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Tennessee recognizes legal separation which is a type of limited divorce. Couples that successfully file for legal separation in Tennessee no longer live together but their marital status does not change, and their marriage does not dissolve. 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.

What Legal Separation Means

In the state of Tennessee, you may file for a legal separation if you feel that there are sufficient grounds for divorce but you 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.

Satisfy Residency Requirements

In order to file for legal separation in Tennessee, you or your spouse must have been a resident of the state for a minimum of six months before the date of the petition. Alternatively, the basis of your filing must have occurred in the state of Tennessee, for example, your partner committed 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.

Establish Sufficient Grounds for Legal Separation

The state of Tennessee recognizes 15 specific grounds for legal separation or divorce. The more common grounds include adultery, one spouse being convicted of a felony, habitual drunkenness or drug use, cruelty, inappropriate marital conduct, or evidence that the spouses have already been living apart for at least two years. You can also file on the basis of "irreconcilable differences," which is Tennessee's version of a no-fault separation. If you and your spouse cannot agree on the nature of your "irreconcilable differences," then you will have to establish one of the fault-based grounds for divorce.

Filing a Petition

To start the process, 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. Include your 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 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.

Attending the Hearing

After filing your petition, temporary injunctions be placed in effect for you and your spouse until your court appearance. These temporary injunctions will stop you doing anything detrimental to your spouse in regards to marital assets, property, insurance premiums, behavior, children, residency, and evidence. If you have no children, the court can rule on your case 60 days after you file; otherwise the wait period is 90 days. 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.