What is the Difference Between Divorce, Legal Separation, and an Annulment?

There are several different ways of approaching the end of a marriage. Depending on the couple, the circumstances, and what they are hoping to accomplish, couples may seek a divorce, legal separation, or annulment as options when they choose to live apart from each other.

Divorce in Tennessee

A divorce is a legal dissolution of a marriage. In Tennessee, you may seek anuncontested divorce or prove legal grounds (contested) for the court to consider.

In a divorce, a court action will be initiated, important financial and custodial matters addressed, and the court will declare you divorced. If matters of child support and custody, marital assets and debt, or spousal support cannot be decided or negotiated between spouses, the court will intervene and impose certain requirements and make decisions for the divorcing couple. In some cases, it will take skilled legal assistance to get full transparency and accountability from the other spouse or to provide experienced negotiation assistance, which is why most divorcing couples seek their own attorneys in a divorce.

While divorce can be difficult, with the right legal assistance, it can be navigated in as amicable fashion as possible given the circumstances. Divorce will allow both parties to go forward toward separate futures while having the legal enforceability of the divorce settlement to fall back on, if necessary.

Legal Separation in Tennessee

If you and your spouse decide to live apart from each other but are not ready for a divorce, you may want to consider separating. But while living apart from each other may be your first emotional step toward divorce, you are still considered legally married unless you pursue a legal separation.

With a legal separation, your legal status changes from married to legally separated and carries with it some specific legal protections and rights that just moving away from each other does not. While a legal separation does not allow you the right to remarry, it does address many other legal issues like divorce. A legal separation may also be a good option for those who want to stay within their personal religious beliefs or maintain specific benefits, such as insurance coverage if permitted by the insurance carrier.

When you pursue a legal separation, the court sets out specific legal responsibilities for you and your spouse such as child custody, child support, distribution of assets and debts, and spousal support. With a legal separation, you will have the legal right to hold your spouse accountable for their responsibilities.

Annulment in Tennessee

In Tennessee, some marriages can be ended by an annulment. While a divorce terminates a valid legal marriage, an annulment means that marriage itself was not valid to begin with.

To pursue an annulment in Tennessee, certain grounds need to be established. In Tennessee, possible grounds for annulment are:

  • One spouse was insane or was unable to understand the nature of marriage at the time the couple was married
  • One or both spouses were not of legal age to marry
  • Spouses are too closely related
  • One spouse already has another living husband or wife
  • One spouse was coerced into the marriage
  • One spouse defrauded the other into marriage
  • One spouse cannot physically have sexual intercourse
  • One spouse refuses to live with the other or engage in sexual relations

To get a marriage annulled in Tennessee, a court hearing must be scheduled, and grounds proven with evidence or supporting testimony from witnesses.

In an annulment hearing, the judge will decide any issues regarding property division, child support, and custody. If there are children involved, the children will be considered legitimate, and both parents will be required to financially support and care for them.

Getting the Legal Assistance of a Murfreesboro Family Law Attorney

Married couples will be very different in their outlooks and needs when they choose to dissolve a marriage. Fortunately, there are options so these couples can choose to go their own way on their own terms.

If you are considering divorce or separation, you should understand your rights and options under the law. Getting the advice of an experienced Murfreesboro divorce lawyer can help you make important decisions regarding your future. At The Law Office of David L. Scott, we can help you consider your options in a way that best addresses your unique situation. Call us at (615) 896-7656 or schedule a consultation on our online contact form.


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