Annulment vs. Divorce vs. Legal Separation
When a married couple decides it’s time to go their separate ways, it’s not as easy as simply moving on to the next phase in your life. Because you’ve been united by law, you’ll need to take steps to officially end your marriage, though what this looks like may not be as straightforward as you think.
For many, it will mean simply seeking a traditional divorce, while for others a better choice may be annulment or even a legal separation. But when is annulment or legal separation an option?
Learning the difference between divorce, annulment, and legal separation is key to understanding how best to move forward. To speak with a family law attorney about this, give us a call at Evan Taylor Law Office PSC. From our offices in Owensboro, Kentucky we can help those throughout the area including Henderson, Hancock County, Ohio County, and McLean County.
Divorce (technically called a “dissolution of marriage” in Kentucky) is by far the most common way married couples choose to separate. Like most states, Kentucky is considered a “no-fault” divorce state which means that you don’t have to show that one spouse caused the marriage to fall apart, only that there’s been an “irretrievable breakdown.”
However, the process of your divorce will be affected by whether it’s contested or uncontested:
Contested Divorce: When the divorcing couple can’t agree on one or more issues (e.g. child custody, alimony, or asset division), they’ll require court intervention which can dramatically increase the cost and timeline of the process.
Uncontested Divorce: When the divorcing couple can come to an agreement on all issues (even if this is done with the help of a lawyer or mediator), it’s considered “uncontested” and can generally be done much faster.
Annulment is another option for ending a divorce, but it can only be used under specific circumstances. Essentially, to “annul” a marriage means to make it invalid, as if it had never happened. This differs from a divorce which formally ends a marriage but doesn’t question its validity. There are several different grounds for annulment which could include:
One or both partners were under the age of 18 when the marriage occurred or were otherwise unable to properly consent.
The marriage was never consummated.
One of the spouses was already married to someone else.
One spouse was forced into the marriage.
There was evidence of fraud or deceit.
This can be done by filing a "Petition for Annulment of Marriage" with the court where you’ll have to include the legal grounds for the annulment. In many cases, you’ll also need to attend a formal hearing where you’ll have to prove to a judge why an annulment is necessary. Importantly, in Kentucky, there’s a fairly strict timeline on when annulments are possible, and this is set at 90 days after you discover the reason for annulment. In most cases, if you go past this deadline you will have to seek a divorce.
When you get a legal separation, you’re still legally married to your spouse but are living separately. The process to pursue a legal separation is nearly identical to that of a divorce, except that a legal separation allows you to maintain some of the benefits of marriage such as filing joint taxes or remaining on a spouse’s employer-sponsored insurance.
In other cases, if a couple feels there’s a chance of reconciliation, they may try a legal separation first before divorce. After a year of being legally separated, either spouse can request a formal divorce.
Make the Choice That’s Right for You
If you’d like to meet with a divorce attorney in Kentucky to discuss your options for ending your marriage, reach out to our firm at Evan Taylor Law Office PSC, serving those in and around Owensboro, Kentucky.