August 17, 2019

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Separation, Divorce, or Annulment

Family Law Attorneys

If the time has come to end your marriage or domestic partnership, or if you are considering it, you may be wondering whether legal separation, divorce, or annulment is appropriate in your case. You may not even know that the real differences are. While there are some differences in how these matters are handled in each state, there are some basic elements that remain the same. A family law attorney can explain each one in detail to you, and help you determine which one is the best course for you.


Divorce ends your marriage or domestic partnership. It leaves both of you free to remarry or enter into a new domestic partnership. A few states do have a waiting period, after the final divorce decree is issued, before you can remarry. Divorce addresses issues such as:

  • Property distribution
  • Child custody
  • Child support
  • Spousal support/maintenance/alimony


Separation does not technically end a marriage. Couples who are legally separated are still legally married. Neither you nor your spouse are free to remarry. So why would any couple choose separation?

Separation can be used to resolve all of the same issues as divorce including property division and child custody, while allowing you to retain some of the rights you have as a married couple. These rights include access to health insurance and accruing time toward the 10 years of marriage required to benefit from a spouse’s Social Security.

Separation is also a way for some couples who can no longer live together as married and do not plan to remarry, to resolve important legal and financial issues and move on with their lives without violating their religious or moral beliefs.


Annulment eliminates the existence of the marriage. It is very different to a divorce in that it means you were never actually married. Annulments are rarely granted, and are not an appropriate means of ending most marriages, but in certain situations annulment should be pursued.

Annulment is typically difficult to obtain because you must prove that the marriage was not legal. Grounds for annulment include:

  • Bigamy – either spouse was still legally married to another person when the second marriage was entered
  • Inability to consummate the marriage
  • Forced consent – one or both spouses were forced or threatened into the marriage
  • Fraud – one spouse agreed to the marriage based on misrepresentation or concealment of certain facts by the other spouse
  • Incest – spouses are too closely related to legally marry
  • Mental illness at the time of the marriage
  • Mental incapacity – either spouse was intoxicated at the time of the marriage, and therefore unable to consent, and annulment is sought within a certain time period
  • Underage marriage

To connect with an experienced family law attorney in your area, please search our network of experienced divorce attorneys today.