Divorce vs. Separation vs. Annulment

If you are not happy with your marriage, you can always opt for divorce. While some states have residency requirements, you can typically end your marriage at any time after you say “I do.” Are there any alternatives to divorce?

There are a couple other options, such as annulment and separation. However, these options may not apply to you if your marriage lasted a long time or if you want to do more than simply live apart.

How does a divorce differ from a separation or an annulment? Here are the terms in more detail so you can decide which one is right for you.

What is a Divorce?

Nearly half of all marriages end in divorce. A divorce terminates a marriage for good. When a couple divorces, they are no longer legally married and they are allowed to marry other people. Anyone can divorce at any time in their marriage, as long as they meet their state’s requirements. In Florida, for example, one of the spouses must have lived in Florida for at least six months before filing for divorce. They must also prove that the marriage is irretrievably broken (irreconcilable differences) or that one spouse was mentally incapacitated for the past three years.

Florida recognizes no-fault divorce, which means that a couple can divorce for a variety of reasons, from infidelity to money issues to domestic violence to sexual incompatibility to personality clashes. There does not need to be proof that a spouse’s actions caused the marriage to end.

A divorce can be contested or uncontested. If the spouses agree to all the issues in a marriage, then it is considered uncontested. If there is disagreement about any issue, then the marriage is considered contested. The couple may try to resolve the issue through mediation, which is where the couple tries to negotiate and come to an agreement with the help of a third party. If mediation does not work, then the issue may have to go to court, with a judge making the final decision.

Divorces can be long and costly. Some take years and cost tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. That is why it is best for the parties to try to come to an agreement on all the key issues as quickly as possible, as this saves time and money.

What is a Separation?

A separation is a legal matter that allows the couple to split up, but not end the marriage. They are still legally married. This type of arrangement is preferred for couples who may not want to divorce for religious or financial reasons. It is also possible that the couple may reconcile at a later date. It allows them to work on their marital problems over time without the need to rush into a divorce. If they decide to get back together, they can simply revoke the separation, rather than go through all the cost and trouble of getting a divorce and getting remarried.

A separation has the same sort of process as a divorce in that it requires a separation agreement, which is similar to a divorce agreement. The parties agree on all the same issues that they would in a divorce, such as asset division, alimony, child custody and child support. The terms of this agreement are written into a document, which is signed and notarized. The nice thing about such an agreement is that it can easily be converted into a divorce judgment if the couple decides they cannot work things out and they want to divorce down the road.

What is an Annulment?

An annulment ends a marriage, like a divorce, but it is done differently. It declares a marriage is null and void, as if it never happened. However, not all marriages qualify to be annulled.

There are certain situations in which a marriage can be annulled. For example, a marriage could be annulled if it was deemed prohibited. A prohibited marriage is one involving close family members, such as siblings, nieces, nephews, aunts, and uncles. A marriage would also be prohibited if one person was already married to someone else. This is called bigamy.

A marriage could also be annulled if there was a lack of consent. For example, if a person was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the marriage, then they could not legally consent. The same applies to someone who is mentally incapacitated.

Another issue would be if one of the spouses was underage. Under current law, Florida allows 16-year-olds to get married. This varies from state to state, but anyone who was married at an age below the state threshold would be able to get an annulment.

Impotence and fraud are other reasons to seek an annulment. If a person did not know that their partner was impotent before the marriage, their spouse deceived them in some way, or they were lied to about something significant, then they can likely annul their marriage.

Seek Legal Help

While most couples experiencing marital issues opt for divorce, some decide to separate and work on their problems. An annulment is also an option for some short-term marriages, but it is not common, as certain restrictions apply.

Broward County divorce attorney Scott J. Stadler can help you decide whether a divorce, annulment, or separation is right for you. We can help you end your marriage the best way possible. Schedule a consultation with our office today. Call (954) 346-6464 or fill out the online form.