Divorce vs. Legal Separation vs. Annulment

There are a few ways to end your marriage, or the obligations of marriage. The first and most common is a divorce, “Dissolution of Marriage”. The other alternatives include Legal Separation and Annulment. Most of us know what a divorce is- parties are no longer married, assets and debts are divided. It gets a little more confusing when people ask for an annulment or legal separation.

For one reason or another a party will prefer to end their marriage by nullity proceedings. However, despite the appearance of various celebrities’ ability to be granted an annulment, annulment isn’t something you can just ask for and receive. It is much more complicated than that.

A petition for nullity of marriage should only be considered when the validity of the marriage is questionable. Nullity of marriage is a determination that no valid marriage ever occurred. A marriage can be found invalid if the proper procedures or law was not followed in establishing the marriage. For example, you can’t go to Vegas and have just any Elvis marry you. Elvis would have to be properly licensed in the state of Nevada to make your marriage official and legal. Another way a marriage can be found void is if there are other legal barriers that prevented a lawful marriage. Being a minor, bigamy, being of unsound mind, or fraud are some other reasons a marriage may be found to be invalid. If you were extremely drunk or on drugs when you made tied the knot, you could argue that you were of unsound mind, and were not capable of understanding the obligations assumed by marriage. The quicker you act on getting the annulment, the easier it is to have your marriage annulled.

A legal separation is usually an avenue chosen by people who do not want to terminate their marital status for religious or personal reasons. Common filings for legal separation occur when people have certain religious beliefs and divorce is not acceptable to them. The loss of health insurance is also a motivating factor for couples seeking a legal separation instead of a traditional divorce.

Legal separation is very similar to a divorce. Obtaining a legal separation will allow you to divide your assets and debts. It will even allow parties to obtain child custody orders and receive child and spousal support. The significant difference between divorce and legal separation is that technically the parties are still married and neither party can remarry. If you were to remarry, it would be a bigamous marriage and would not be valid. The marital status must be terminated before either party can remarry.

If you have any questions about legal separation, annulment, or divorce, call Lovette T. Mioni at Mioni Family Law today at (424) 259-1770 to set up a consultation.