Most people go into their marriages expecting to stay married for a lifetime. However, sometime life gets in the way, and you may find yourself parting ways from your spouse. When you need to end your marriage legally, what options do you have? The process can be emotionally messy, and you might not want to go straight for divorce. Understand your options to make the best decision for your family.
In some cases, you might find it appropriate to file for an annulment instead of a divorce. When you are awarded an annulment, the court basically states that the marriage was never valid in the first place, and therefore doesn't necessitate a legal divorce. However, you must fit within certain bounds to be considered for an annulment. If one of the parties is underage, legally married, or mentally incapacitated, the marriage can be annulled. Similarly, if both parties are closely blood related or the marriage was unconsummated, you don't have to file for divorce. Lastly, if someone was forced into the marriage or came into it under fraudulent pretenses (say, with a criminal history, STD, or impotence) you can apply for an annulment.
Many marriage don't fit under the annulment umbrella. If you don't want to jump into divorce just yet, you can file for legal separation. This is a baby step towards divorce that renders you and your spouse legally separated and delineates your responsibilities during this time. Your marriage won't be dissolved, but the court will explain the division of assets, debts and parental duties. It's important to remember that the terms agreed upon for a legal separation often carry over into divorce if you choose to end the relationship formally. So it's best to think long term when going through this process.
Divorce is often an option when the marriage split is more messy and final. When both parties can't agree upon the terms of the split, they hire divorce lawyers to help them fight for what they think they deserve in terms of assets and child custody. Divorce in each state is different, but generally begins when one party files for divorce. The papers must be served to the other party and they have to respond within a certain amount of time with the help of a lawyer. Otherwise, the divorce can be considered uncontested. Not all divorces have to end in court. You can seek out more peaceful ways to reach agreement, such as mediation or arbitration.
When you need or want to end your marriage, call a family lawyer who has experience in all types of family law, including annulment, legal separation, and divorce. They can help you determine which one is right for your situation.
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