Alternatives to Divorce: Understanding Legal Separation and Annulment
June 20, 2018
Many people wrongly assume that a divorce is the only way to legally end one’s marriage. While that may be the case in the majority of situations, divorce is not the only option.
Another option available to you in Arizona is an annulment. To be granted an annulment in Arizona, you need to show that the marriage was invalid (or void) from the start. An example of this would be if either you, your spouse (or both) were underage at the time of the marriage and didn’t have parental consent when you were married. Other examples would be if you and your spouse find out that you are related by blood, or were incapacitated to make such a legally impactful decision as getting married at the time. There might also be situations where one (or both) of you were not legally allowed to marry, such as if one of you were still legally married to someone else or did not properly obtain a valid marriage license before getting married.
Essentially, when applying for an annulment, you are claiming that you and your spouse were never legally married in the first place. If an annulment can apply to your situation, you might consider going this route because it has the advantage of essentially “erasing” the marriage as if it never happened in the first place
One important point to remember is that an annulment does not negate any child support obligations for children that may have been conceived during the marriage. The process of getting an annulment in Arizona is the same procedure that you would need to follow for getting a divorce and would require that you to make a court application to have your marriage annulled.
Another option to divorce would be getting a legal separation from your spouse. In many ways, a legal separation and a divorce are very similar to each other in that any agreements between the spouses submitted to the court will be binding. It is important to remember that while a legal separation will allow both you and your spouse to lead separate lives, file taxes separately, and build up assets (and debts) separately, you will both still be legally married to each other.
A couple may choose separation over a divorce if there is a reasonable chance of a reconciliation in the future. In that respect, the couple might use the separation as a “trial run” to see if they truly want to get divorced eventually or decide to reconcile. Some couples might also realize that by remaining legally married, one spouse can still remain on the other’s spouse’s employment benefits plan as well as be a beneficiary on insurance policies.
It is important to remember that while you and your spouse can lead independent lives while separated, you are both still legally married. While this does not affect your ability to get into a new relationship in the future, you cannot remarry as this would be considered bigamy, which is outlawed in the U.S.
If you are thinking about ending your marriage, there are many things that you need to consider before coming to a final decision. At Tad Davis Law, our legal team is ready to assist you in your Arizona family law matter. Call us today!