The Differences Between Divorce, Annulment, and Separation
With everything that’s been going on in the United States recently, it’s understandable that families have been under a lot of stress. If your family members haven’t contracted COVID-19, you probably have friends or loved ones who have, and you’re worried about them. If you haven’t had to file for unemployment, you may be working from home with reduced hours. You might have a child that was sent home from school during the lockdown, so you’ve been forced into your first attempts of homeschooling. Depending on where you live, there may be peaceful or not-so-peaceful protests happening right inside your neighborhood. With all of these external factors going on, it makes sense that couples are under stress. If you and your spouse are considering ending your marriage, you should learn about the differences between divorce, annulment, and separation.
What is a Divorce?
If you’re trying to figure out the benefits of divorce vs. annulment, you’ve come to the right place. The term divorce refers to legally dissolving a marriage prior to the death of either spouse. But the divorce does recognize that the marriage was valid for some period of time. You’re asking the court system to dissolve the marriage and lay down the rules involving property, finances, support, child custody, and visitation.
It’s possible to either seek a fault or a no-fault divorce. Generally speaking, a no-fault divorce is quicker, easier, and less expensive than a fault divorce. With a fault divorce, you have to prove that your spouse committed some sort of wrongdoing, whether that involves cruelty, adultery, indignity, bigamy, desertion, or incarceration. For each of these grounds, there are certain requirements that you have to prove.
You should speak to a professional divorce lawyer if you’d like to learn more about the divorce laws. The dedicated team at Dutko Law can help make the divorce process quicker and easier for you. If you and your spouse have any pent up anger towards each other, a divorce can become ugly and emotionally draining. We can help lessen the load on you, and make certain that all of the little details are given proper attention. Our lawyer will work hard to ensure your rights are protected and you get your fair share.
What is an Annulment?
An annulment is a legal declaration that a marriage is null and void. It’s usually retroactive, unlike a divorce. With an annulment, it’s like your marriage never happened—a court finds that the union was invalid right from the start. The result of an annulled marriage is just like a divorce. Both people are single and free to remarry or enter a domestic partnership with someone else. An annulment is a somewhat unusual way to end a marriage, but it might be your best option. If you’ve only been married for a short period of time, you may think that annulling the marriage is an option for you. On the contrary, an annulment is usually only possible if the marriage wasn’t legal in the first place.
The grounds for annulment include incest and bigamy. A spouse may not have had the mental capacity that’s needed to consent to a marriage. A spouse was drunk or drugged during the ceremony. One or more spouses were under the age of 16. One or more spouses were under the age of 18, and they didn’t get parental consent. One of the spouses is physically incapable of performing intercourse. Marriage consent was obtained through duress, fraud, or coercion. Or, one or more spouses were already married.
What is a Legal Separation?
A separation is when a couple remains legally married, but there’s a de facto separation. Both spouses are unable to enter another marriage or domestic partnership with another individual. If you’re considering a divorce or annulment but aren’t quite sure yet, this may be a good option for you.
In the state of Pennsylvania, there is no “legal separation.” Once you are separated and apart, there’s no need for a legal proceeding. Although, you can seek a separation agreement that sorts out any contentious issues and defines exactly what your legal rights are while you’re separated. Your agreement might include topics like debt, joint bills, property division, spousal support, child support, and a visitation schedule. The division of property is a major issue you need to work out. If you can’t live with your ex-spouse, you’ll have to figure out who’s moving out and who will have to pay for the new household.
While a separation agreement isn’t mandatory, it can be very helpful. You may feel a bit more comfortable with a written-out legally-binding document when you’re splitting up a lot of responsibilities and assets. There’s no way to enforce a word-of-mouth agreement between two spouses. If you have any questions about creating a separation agreement, you should get in touch with a knowledgeable divorce attorney.
What’s the Best Option for You?
Once you start thinking about ending your marriage, you may hear all three of these terms being tossed around. But now that you understand the differences between divorce, annulment, and separation, you can speak with your spouse and find the best option for your family. Due to religious beliefs, you might try to seek an annulment over a divorce. On the other hand, your separation may not fall under the grounds of an annulment. You also need to consider financial factors, like medical insurance. You may decide to just separate so that you can still take advantage of your spouse’s insurance benefits. Separations are also common in the military because people need to stay married to keep getting benefits.
As you can probably see, there’s a lot to consider — especially when there are children involved in the marriage. If you need a family lawyer to help you get started on the process, reach out to the team at Dutko Law. Our team is here to help you during this tough time of marital separation.