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Divorce vs. Annulment vs. Legal Separation

The Law Offices of Steven E. Springer March 28, 2023

Deciding to end a marriage never comes easy, and the process can be confusing. If you’re considering separating from your spouse in California, you need to understand the legal options available to you. Depending on your situation, you may have the option of filing for divorce, annulment, or legal separation. 

Our reliable family law attorneys at The Law Offices of Steven E. Springer assist clients with all three ways to separate from their spouse: divorce, annulment, and legal separation. With offices in Morgan Hill and San Jose, California, we provide tailored advice and quality representation to clients in Alameda County, Santa Clara County, Fremont, Pleasanton, and Hayworth.  

What Is Divorce?  

When couples decide to separate permanently, they can file for a dissolution of their marriage, which is a legal term for divorce in California.  

In order to be eligible for a divorce in California, one of the spouses must have lived in the state for at least six months prior to filing and must have been a resident of the county where they are filing for three months prior to the date of filing.  

Once a couple has filed for divorce, both parties will need to come to an agreement regarding property division, alimony, and child custody (if applicable). If they cannot reach an agreement on their own, they will likely require mediation or court proceedings (litigation). If the spouses can agree, their divorce is considered uncontested. Divorces that require court intervention are called contested divorces.  

What Is Annulment?  

An annulment is different from a divorce because it essentially erases the marriage altogether. The process of obtaining an annulment is similar to that of a divorce but with certain additional requirements—namely, that one spouse must prove that there was something invalid about their union from its inception. It’s important to note that annulments are not as common as divorces and are generally only granted in rare circumstances.   

In California, grounds for annulment include bigamy (one of the spouses is married to another person), the parties entering into the marriage when one or both of them were under the age of 18, one party tricking the other into the marriage through fraud, or incest (the union is between close blood relatives).  

What Is Legal Separation? 

A legal separation is an option when couples wish to remain married but live apart from each other without dissolving their marriage completely. A legal separation also involves coming up with an agreement regarding property division and child custody arrangements (if spouses share minor children).  

The main difference between legal separation and divorce is that with legal separation, you remain married, while with divorce, you are no longer married. This means that if either spouse decides later down the line they want to restore their marital status, they can do so more easily than if they had gone through a full-blown divorce proceeding.  

Do You Need an Attorney for Divorce, Annulment, or Legal Separation?  

Making the decision whether or not to end your marriage is never easy. However, understanding your options can help make this process less daunting. In California, individuals who want to separate from their spouse have three main options—divorce, annulment, or legal separation—each with its own unique set of requirements and implications.  

It’s essential that those considering any type of marital dissolution consult with an experienced family law attorney who can help them understand which option best fits their individual needs and circumstances. With proper guidance, navigating this complex issue will become much easier. An attorney will walk you through every step of the process, prepare the paperwork on your behalf, and ensure that your rights are protected.  

Experienced Guidance Every Step of the Way  

If you want to end your marriage or separate from your spouse but are not sure how to proceed, our attorneys at The Law Offices of Steven E. Springer are here to help. Our attorneys provide experienced and trusted legal guidance to ensure that our clients get the best possible outcome in their cases. Schedule a free, 20-minute consultation with our family law attorneys in California to discuss your particular situation.