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Divorce, Annulment, and Legal Separation: What are the Differences?

Ending a marriage is a difficult experience, but sometimes, it might be the best option for all parties involved. If you and your spouse are calling it quits, it’s important that you should know you have three options: file a divorce, get an annulment, or separate legally. While these three may mean the same taken at face value, legally, they are different things.

“Complications are bound to arise when it comes to family disputes,” says a firm of family lawyers in Colorado Springs. This is why whether you’re going through a divorce or an annulment, or you’re fighting for the custody of your children, the help and guidance of a family law attorney is invaluable. They can also help you decide the best course of action to take when you’re ending your marriage.


Divorce is a legal proceeding that ends a marriage before one of the married individuals passes away. The proceeding ends a valid marriage, so both parties can return to single status and remarry if they wish. During the court hearings, other family matters are resolved, such as child support, child custody, property rights, and alimony.

The legal grounds for divorce include no-fault and fault-based. In a no-fault divorce, a spouse files a divorce without blaming the other for the ending of the marriage. A no-fault divorce may be because of loss of affection or irreconcilable differences.

On the other hand, a fault-based divorce is when a spouse decides to end a marriage due to adultery, abandonment, domestic violence, and substance abuse. A fault-based divorce can influence the decision of the court regarding the division of assets, custodial rights, and child support.


Annulling a marriage is declaring its invalidity and non-existence. Either of the spouses can file it, and the initiating party should prove that they have grounds for the annulment. If the court finds the grounds valid, the marriage is considered null and void.

Some of the common grounds for annulment are bigamous, underage, and incestuous marriage. When one of the spouses entered into the marriage under duress, the court can consider it as forced consent, which is also grounds for annulment. Inability to consummate, mental incapacity (one of the spouses is under the influence of drugs or alcohol upon marriage), and mental illness (one of the spouses is mentally or emotionally unstable at the time of the marriage), can all be reasons to declare a marriage void. Both parties can remarry after an annulment, but it cannot be filed when one of the spouses has passed away.

Legal Separation

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Unlike divorce and annulment, legal separation does not permanently end the marital relationship of spouses. Both parties are prohibited from remarrying or having a domestic partnership with another person. Many married couples who file for a judicially-recognized separation do so because they are contemplating whether to end the marriage permanently or work on reconciliation.

The grounds for legal separation are almost the same as those in divorce, including adultery, abandonment, and incompatibility. Both parties can come to an agreement in matters regarding child custody and support, but the deal should be approved by the court so that rights are enforced in cases of disputes.

Legal separation has some advantages over other types of marital separation. One of these is that legally separated couples can reap the benefits of remaining married, such as tax incentives. Another is that legal separation can be withdrawn from the court when both parties choose to get back together.

Many factors can influence a couple’s or a spouse’s decision to end the marriage. These factors (financial hardships, infidelity, and irreconcilable differences, for instance) should be taken into account when deciding which kind of separation to file. To come to an informed decision, it is best that the couple or should consult a family lawyer to fully understand the overwhelming complexities of these legal proceedings.

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