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The Difference between Divorce, Annulment, and Legal Separation

The Difference between Divorce, Annulment, and Legal Separation

Three Ways to End a Marriage

When people think about how to end a marriage, the method that usually comes to mind is divorce. There are, however, other methods to ending a marriage, including annulment and legal separation, that some couples may find more suitable for them. Each method has different requirements and legal ramifications, and couples that decide to end their marriage should understand which method works best for their unique situation.

Know the Difference

  • Divorce

A divorce is a legal decree that terminates a marriage before either spouse dies. After a divorce is finalized, the parties are not legally bound to each other and are free to remarry or enter into a domestic partnership with another person.

If couples decide on this method, one of the spouses may file for a “no-fault” or “fault-based” divorce. In a no-fault divorce, a spouse files for divorce without blaming the other spouse for the dissolution of the marriage. Examples of this type of divorce include irreconcilable differences and loss of affection. In a fault-based divorce, one of the spouses blames the other for the dissolution of the marriage. Examples of this type of divorce include adultery, domestic violence, and drug and alcohol abuse.

Court proceedings involving divorce may determine issues of child custody, child support, alimony, and more.

  • Annulment

An annulment is a legal determination that a marriage has always been invalid and is therefore ended. Similar to divorce, an annulment allows the parties to remarry or enter in a domestic partnership with another person.

Grounds for an annulment include that the marriage was incestuous, bigamous, the result of force or fraud, took place when one or both spouses was below the legal age to marry, took place when one or both spouses were already married, or took place when one or both spouses were under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Similar to divorce, court proceedings involving annulment may determine issues of child custody, child support, alimony, and more.

  • Legal separation

In a legal separation, spouses may formalize a de facto separation while remaining legally married. This determination is delivered in the form of a court order. Since it does not end the marriage, parties are unable to remarry or enter into a domestic partnership with another person.

Laws surrounding legal separation differ from state to state but in North Carolina, a separation agreement or other written documentation is not required to be legally separated. To be considered legally separated from your spouse, you must be living in different homes and one of you must intend that the separation be permanent. Typically, you will not be considered legally separated if your relationship has ended but you’re living in the same home.

While the state of North Carolina does not require a separation agreement to be legally separated from your spouse, it can be helpful in determining how to divide property, alimony payments, and more.

Which Method is Right for Me?

Ending a marriage is never easy, but determining which method is right for you can make the process simpler. Many different factors come into play when deciding how to end your marriage, including where you live. Different states have unique statues and requirements surrounding divorce, annulment, and legal separation.

The state of North Carolina, for example, only allows for no-fault divorce, which means proof of a spouse’s marital misconduct is not required to file for divorce. In order to file for divorce, couples must live separately for one year and one party must reside in the state for six months prior to filing for divorce. This does not mean you need to be legally separated in order to file for divorce; it simply means both parties must live in separate physical locations for one year before filing for divorce.

No matter which method you decide upon to end your marriage, it’s important that your best interests are protected. Our Charlotte family law attorneys will work diligently to seek what’s best for you and your children. We provide attentive legal support to help you make it through this difficult time as painlessly as possible. Call our Charlotte family law attorneys to schedule a consultation at (704) 659-0007 today.

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