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How to decide between divorce and legal separation

Divorce is common throughout the country, but it is a particularly large problem in Tennessee. In 2015, there were four counties in the state where the marriage rate was actually lower than the divorce rate. 

People understandably want to know all their options before proceeding with a divorce. Many people come across the option of legal separation, which is similar to a divorce, but there are key differences. It is paramount for both spouses to understand the intricacies of each so they can do what is best for both of them and any children they share. 

The couple still wants to share benefits

One spouse may cover the other spouse's health insurance through work. Once that couple divorces, they are no longer together in the eyes of the law, which means the one spouse would lose healthcare coverage. However, if the couple legally separates, then they can live separately while still enjoying these kinds of benefits. A similar principle is at play when the couple wants to share Social Security benefits. A couple must remain married for at least 10 years to qualify, so a legal separation can help a couple close to a decade of marriage get past that checkpoint.

One of the spouses wants to remarry

With a legal separation, the law still views two people as married. That means if there is someone else one of the spouses wants to be with, then he or she will need to obtain an official divorce decree. 

Neither option is more affordable than the other

Some couples hear the phrase "legal separation" and assume it is a cheaper alternative to divorce. Regardless of whether you legally separate or divorce, both partners will need to go to court to work out alimony, property division and child custody. If you go through a legal separation first, then you can transform your separation agreement into a divorce agreement with minimal alterations. However, you will still require the services of an attorney in either case.

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