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Divorce, Separation, & Annulment

 

When a dissolution of marriage is at hand, couples often struggle to weigh their options as far as how to handle all aspects of the situation. There are a number of different options to chose from, but all is dependent on the terms on which the spouses are ending their marriage, how the marriage itself occurred, and when.

When couples decide to end their relationships, they usually have three choices: file for divorce, become legally separated, or get an annulment. However, couples usually do not know the difference between each option, or the advantages and the disadvantages. Here is a brief overview of the three marriage dissolution options.

Divorce
Divorce, or the dissolution of a marriage, is the legal process in which spouses legally terminate their marital union. Under the law, this means the spouses are agreeing to relinquish themselves from the rights and responsibilities of marriage.

Along with this official divorce procedure, there are many issues the couple must address. These issues include, but are not limited to: child custody, child support, division of assets, division of debt, and spousal support.

Each state has its own specific and unique divorce laws and has different residency requirements. Conventional divorces (those not done online) typically take around six months to be finalized. When a couple finalizes a divorce, each party is no longer liable for any future debt of the other spouse and no longer has to equally share their income and profits with the other spouse.

Legal Separation

Legal separation, also known as a judicial separation, is a legal process in which a married couple formalizes their separation but remain legally married. This often occurs before the finalization of a divorce. Legal separations are granted only through a court order in the county of the state in which the spouses reside. When a couple files for a legal separation, they address the same issues as in a divorce, such as child custody and spousal support.

One of the benefits of a legal separation is that certain rights are not eliminated, such as access to social security and medical benefits, which is why many couples choose to take this option. Another advantage is that a legal separation does not take long to finalize. In addition, if a couple decides to move forward with a divorce, the court will use the separation agreement as a template for the divorce settlement agreement. However, each state varies in their laws regarding legal separations.

Annulment

An annulment is very similar to a divorce in that it does indeed dissolve a marriage. But, an annulment differs from a divorce in that a judge will proclaim the marriage null and void. In other words, the marriage is considered to be invalid from the inception and there is no legal record of its existence. To be granted an annulment, the parties must have legal grounds for an annulment; again, these legal grounds vary depending on the state. Grounds for an annulment include: fraud, concealment, inability to consummate the marriage, or a marital misunderstanding. A religious annulment differs from a civil annulment in that each religion has their specific grounds for annulment, which also varies upon religion.

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