Annulments and Separations: Common Inquiries

Discover alternative paths to consider alongside or prior to the dissolution of marriage.

What Sets Annulment Apart from Divorce?

Annulment and divorce both legally dissolve a marriage; however, an annulment differs in that it essentially declares the marriage null and void, as if it never occurred. This may be the preferred option for individuals who wish to avoid the societal stigma associated with divorce or for those seeking to remarry within their faith, where annulment may be a prerequisite.

The justification for an annulment can vary by jurisdiction, but commonly includes:

  • Misrepresentation or Fraud: Examples include misleading statements about the ability to have children, marital status, or age.
  • Concealment: Hiding a substance dependency, criminal history, prior offspring, a communicable disease, or inability to engage in sexual relations.
  • Refusal or Incapacity to Consummate: When a spouse cannot or will not engage in sexual relations with their partner.
  • Misunderstanding: Disagreements on fundamental marital expectations, like having children.

Civil annulments typically handle marriages of brief duration, with minimal concern for the division of assets and child-related issues. Nonetheless, for longer marriages, there are protocols in many states for addressing the division of assets and debts, as well as child custody and support, among other matters. Children from an annulled marriage maintain their legitimacy status.

Under What Circumstances are Couples Considered Legally Separated?

The term “separated” can be ambiguous due to the existence of four distinct types of separation, each with its legal and relational implications:

  • Trial Separation: A temporary living arrangement to evaluate the viability of the relationship where joint assets and liabilities may still accrue.
  • Living Apart: When spouses reside in separate locations, which may alter property rights, depending on state law.
  • Permanent Separation: An intentional, ongoing living arrangement where post-separation earnings and debts are typically deemed individual property or responsibility, subject to certain exceptions like family necessities and maintaining joint property.
  • Legal Separation: A court-supervised division of property, finances, and familial responsibilities between spouses, without the finality of divorce. This includes “separate maintenance” – financial support that precedes any divorce proceedings.

At James H. Wilson, we understand the complexity and nuance of deciding between annulment and separation. We are committed to guiding you through each step of your unique situation. For personalized assistance, call us at 804.740.6464.

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