The Difference Between a Legal Separation, Divorce, Annulment, and Dissolution of a Marriage

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Though no one ever plans on ending a marriage, the truth of the matter is that many do end in divorce. However, there are other options which can make this time even more confusing. Some people prefer to stay married but they legally separate while others want an annulment.

So, what is the difference?

What is a dissolution of marriage? In some states, a dissolution of marriage is a legal term for a divorce. One or both parties go through the court in order to end their marriage. Both parties must make a decision about the division of property (including finances), child custody, visitation, support, as well as alimony and name changes.

What is a divorce? A divorce ends a marriage, just like a dissolution of marriage. Some states use the term dissolution of marriage while others prefer to use divorce. However, most of the time, these terms can be used interchangeably.

What is an annulment? For many, an annulment is a preferred way to dissolve a marriage. By annulling a marriage, the court says that the marriage never occurred in the first place.

Annulments are common with those who have recently gotten married, though they can be used if the marriage was not legal (because one person was still married). There are some religions which allow annulments, though they won’t allow divorces.

What is a legal separation? A legal separation is also taken through the court system, yet both parties decide to stay married. The two will live separately and divide up their assets, as well as come up with a solution for the children. However, they don’t want to get divorced.

A legal separation is often done prior to a divorce, especially if one wants a divorce while the other one doesn’t. It can also be used when someone feels strongly against divorce for whatever reason (mainly religious ones).

Why should you choose one over the other?

Many people are very religious and they don’t believe in divorce. A legal separation may be the only reasonable option for a couple who are unable to stay together. Some people can’t handle the emotional impact of being divorced. They don’t want to feel like a failure so they would rather go through a separation.

Many people can’t afford to divorce. They need to stay married for financial reasons so they decide to legally separate. The most common reason includes medical insurance. Many people need the insurance that they receive from their spouse. Legal separations are also common for those in the military. They may need to stay married in order to receive the same benefits that they had while they were married.

So, where should you start?

Before you go any further, you need to consult with a lawyer. He or she will help you decide the right way to end your marriage. If you do decide to divorce, you will have to file a complaint with the court system. Your spouse will be served with papers.

Usually, you have to wait a few weeks prior to ending your marriage, though you may want to get temporary orders, especially if you have children to worry about. Once a certain amount of time has passed, your lawyer will meet with your spouse’s lawyer to hammer out the details of your divorce. Everything that you own will have to be divided, though the hardest part of a divorce is often coming up with a suitable solution for your children.

Contact us for all of your legal needs. We would be happy to discuss your options with you as you go through this difficult time.

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