Legal Separation or divorce for Christians

By Jedidiah McKeehan

When people ask me about my personal position on the concept of divorce, I tell them, “I am not pro-divorce, I am pro people being happy.”  I would never, and do not, push people toward getting a divorce.

Some people are hesitant to file for divorce because of religious reasons.  There are some strong passages in the Bible that speak against divorce.

“‘For I hate divorce,’ says the Lord, the God of Israel…” (Malachi 2:16 New American Standard (NAS)).

“And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman, commits adultery” (Matthew 19:9 NASB).

Those are strong statements condemning divorce.  However, Tennessee law has an option available to individuals who desire to separate from their spouses without actually divorcing them, legal separation.

Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-4-102 allows someone to be legally separated from their spouse while still officially remaining married to them.

What’s the difference between a divorce and a legal separation?  Well, the big one is that you are still married to your spouse so you cannot get remarried.  However, many aspects of being legally separated are the exact same as a divorce.  You divide up assets and debts, you put in to place a parenting plan, you can set up alimony and child support, and you separate yourself from being liable for each other’s debts going forward.

So in effect, you are going through the steps to “divorce” your life from your spouse while remaining legally married to them.

One other aspect of legal separation is that it allows the spouses to remain on each other’s insurance because you all are still married.  I have seen some couple choose a legal separation instead of a divorce simply because it is cost-prohibitive for them to obtain separate medical insurance.

So, if you would like to separate yourself from your spouse while also honoring your religious beliefs, legal separation might be an option you want to explore.

 

Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties.  He works in many areas, including criminal, personal injury, landlord-tenant, probate, and estate planning. Visit attorney-knoxville.com for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.

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