Well yes the children still need to be fed and have a roof over their heads so yes you definitely need to turn over funds to your wife. in fact you shouldkeep paying what you were paying when you lived together.
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CAN YOU BE MADE TO PAY SUPPORT WHILE MARRIED AND LIVING APART BUT NOT LEGALLY SEPARATED? Yes. If the children are on TANF or TNCare and both parents are not on the case; then, the State will seek to have the support obligation set for the parent that is not claiming custody. Without a court order for visitation the State will usually give credit for 80 days, but this credit is not an order establishing visitation it is just a computation credit that is usually given. This can be fought but is best to be avoided by either simply getting the divorce done or neither parent applying for state TNCare or TANF benefits until after the divorce.
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY FOR A COUPLE SEEKING TO FINANCE A DIVORCE TO PROVIDE FOR THE CHILDREN WHILE LIVING APART? Put the children first. The couple must have trouble or they would not be seeking a divorce. Put all animosity to the side and begin communicating about the needs of the children. Purchase what is needed for the children and keep receipts. Both parents should spend adequate time with the children on a daily basis if possible. If you are receiving state aid or expect to receive such aid when separated; then, do not take up separate residences prior to the divorce.
My legal opinion is that, unless there is danger to one of the parties due to abuse or some other hazard, the parties to a divorce should not vacate the marital home until either 1) the marital dissolution agreement and parenting plan are signed and filed; or 2) the divorce is granted. There is after all a couch or even a spare bed room usually available. Ultimately; however, the decision to vacate is a pragmatic one and most persons do decide to vacate just to avoid stress.
Paying support should not interfere with the ability of the couple to save money for the divorce. Even if ordered to pay because one party is receiving state aid, just pay, and any amount not needed for support can be saved or even gifted back to the person ordered to pay. The real interference and expense is in the second rental or home payment.
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I always encourage clients to begin paying once there is a separation. Whenever the court does address the issue of setting child support, it can make that support obligation retroactive to the date of your separation. you would be starting out with an arrearage against which you would be required to make payment in addition to the monthly obligation that is set by the court. You would be able to ask for credit for what you had paid IF you could prove it with documentation. So I discourage cash and money orders.
The specific outcome of any legal situation depends on the particular facts and controlling law of that situation. My answer here is for the purpose of general information about how the law works and is not intended to create an attorney client relationship between you and me. If you have any question regarding your legal rights and remedies, contact a lawyer personally.