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The Differences between Divorce, Legal Separation, and Annulment

When couples decide to end their relationships, they usually have three choices: get a divorce, become legally separated, or to get an annulment. However, couples usually do not know the differences, the advantages, and the disadvantages of each option. This guide will explain each option so that couples will know the differences between each option.


Divorce, otherwise known as dissolution of marriage, is the legal process in which a couple terminates their marital union. In effect, the couples are relinquishing themselves from the rights and responsibilities of marriage. Thus, when a couple goes through a divorce, there are many issues that the couple must address. These issues include child custody, child support, division of assets, division of debt and spousal support.

Each state has their unique divorce laws and has different residency requirements. Unlike a legal separation, divorces often take a long time to be finalized, usually around six months. But 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. Legal separations are granted through a court order. When a couple files for a legal separation, they address the same issues as in a divorce, such as child custody and spousal support.

A benefit of a legal separation is that certain rights are not eliminated, such as social security and medical benefits. 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. Again, each state varies in their laws regarding legal separations.


An annulment is similar to a divorce in that it dissolves 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.

To be granted an annulment, the parties must have legal grounds for an annulment. 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.

If a couple decides to end their marital relationship, it is important to consult with an attorney who is experienced in this field. An attorney could review the case and decide which option would best suit the couple.


This guest post is provided by Wallin & Klarich: A Law Corporation of experienced Divorce Lawyers in Orange County, CA. Wallin & Klarich aggressively represents all California Family Law matters with the belief that every client is our own family member. If you would like to know more about Divorce in California visit their website at:

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