Divorce, Annulment and Legal Separation and their Differences

No matter what the public says, going separate ways with your partner is not the end of the world. If anything, it’s one of the healthiest ways for both of you (and your children) to grow and find happiness elsewhere. We grow together, and we grow apart, and being rational and strong enough to understand when the time has come to call it quits is one of the most mature decisions you can make.

If you are in the life stage where staying together is no longer an option, there are three common ways to end the relationship: divorce, marriage annulment and legal separation. Read below to find out the difference between the three:

Divorce

A divorce is an official way to end your marriage or domestic partnership. Once you are divorced, you are free to enter new relationships, become a domestic partner or marry again as you are no longer tied to your (ex) partner in any legal way. After both parties sign divorce papers, each of the partners is considered single.  

During the divorce process, you are allowed to ask the judge for orders like spousal support, child support, custody and visitation, a division of property, domestic violence restraining orders, and other orders.

Divorce is also known as “dissolution of marriage” or “dissolution of domestic partnership.”

Legal Separation

Unlike divorce, a legal separation is not an official end to marriage or domestic partnership. If you are legally separated, you can’t marry anyone else. Legally, you are also not to enter partnerships with someone else other than your legal spouse; however, this rule is often broken as partners separate and start seeing other people.

A legal separation is the best option for couples who don’t want to get divorced but want to live apart. A legal separation gives equal rights to both parties to decide on property, money, and parenting issues. Couples who file for legal separation often still love each other but are going through a phase in their lives where they feel it’s important they figure their issues individually.

If you file for a legal separation, you may later ask the court to either withdraw your request or move onto a divorce.

Just as the case with divorce, a legal separation case allows you to ask the judge for orders like child support, partner support, spousal support, custody and visitation, domestic violence restraining orders, or any other requests.

Annulment

Annulments aren’t that common when it comes to partner separation. If you do ask for an annulment, you will have to go to hearing with a judge, anyhow. An annulment means that a partnership is NOT legally valid.

What is good cause for a marriage to be annulled? Usually, factors like incestuous or bigamous partnerships, relationships declared “void” because of fraud, force, physical or mental incapacity, one of the spouses was already married or in a registered domestic partnership, one of the spouses age (i.e. if they were too young to marry or enter into a domestic partnership legally,) and similar. Annulment is also called “nullity of marriage” or “nullity of domestic partnership.”

What about the children?

For spouses who have children in common, they both have the right to ask the judge for custody. The best way to establish this relationship is to consult with a lawyer and find the best option.

   Any form of separation is hard, mainly if you’ve spent a good part of your life with your partner. To make things run as smoothly as possible and avoid unpleasant situations, hire a lawyer or an advisor with years of experience in family law to help. Contact Platinum Paralegals for more information.