When you think about the end of a marriage, the word “divorce” often comes to mind. However, this is not the only way a marriage can end.
There is always a lot of confusion about the differences between annulments, legal separations, and divorces.
That’s why if you are thinking about ending your marriage, it is important you learn what your options are so that you do what’s best for you.
An annulment is a way to dissolve, or cancel, a marriage as though it never existed in the first place.
Every state has their own laws regarding annulments. That said, here are some situations that will qualify you for an annulment:
- You were tricked or forced under duress to marry someone
- There is a valid case of bigamy
- The marriage is between family members
- Either spouse was mentally ill at the time of marriage
- One of the spouses was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of marriage
- Either spouse was under the legal age to marry and did not have parental or court consent
- There is an inability to consummate the marriage
With an annulment, the courts will find your marriage null and void and you will return to your “unmarried” marital status.
A legal separation is when two people agree that their marriage is breaking down and they need a break.
When you are legally separated from your spouse, you are still legally married. In fact, you may still be living together. However, the court may call for support orders such as:
- The ability for each spouse to date others
- One spouse paying for child support or alimony
- The end of shared debt
Legal separations work for a variety of reasons. For those that needed a break, but reconciled in the end, the trouble of having to go through formal divorce proceedings and marrying again is prevented.
On the other hand, for those that do not reconcile, a legal separation makes the divorce proceedings very simple since a legal separation is one step shy of an actual divorce.
Keep in mind however, that any court orders that were (or were not) in place during your legal separation may come to light if you decide to follow through with a divorce. This is especially true if neither spouse was paying child support during the legal separation. You can bet some form of child support order will be put into place during divorce proceedings.
Divorce, as most people are aware of, is the final dissolution of a legally binding marriage. In a divorce, one spouse files a petition with the court to dissolve the marriage contract and assign things such as property, support, and child custody and visitation orders.
Each state has their own requirements for granting a divorce, though most states allow for “no fault” divorces. In a “no fault” divorce, citing “irreconcilable differences” is enough to have the divorce granted by the court and the appropriate orders put into place.
It is important to hire a divorce lawyer if you are thinking about filing for divorce. This is because divorce proceedings can become very complicated, especially when there is a lot of money, property, and of course, children, involved.
In the end, if your marriage is on the rocks, one of these three solutions will help you get through it. However, it is important to understand what each is so that you make the right decision that is going to be best for you and your family.