What Is the Difference Between a Separation and an Annulment?

Our Paramus Divorce Lawyers at Torchin Martel Orr LLC Represent Clients Who Wish to End Their Marriage

If you and your spouse are considering ending your marriage, there are several options. While divorce is certainly one option to pursue, other methods may be more suitable based on your unique circumstances and if you have specific grounds for terminating your marriage. Separation and annulment are similar in that they are both alternatives to getting a divorce. However, if you are considering these options, it is important to understand some of the main differences between them and how they differ from a divorce.

What Is a Separation?

Unlike a divorce or an annulment, a separation does not legally end your marriage. If you and your spouse are having marital problems, but you are not sure whether you are ready to proceed with a divorce, you may want to consider a separation. Depending on whether you have any intention of reconciling or you are sure that the marriage is over but you have specific reasons for not pursuing a divorce, you can seek the following separation options:

  • Trial separation: A trial separation is an option if you are considering ending your marriage but want to take some time to think about the issues that have caused problems in your relationship and whether the marriage is salvageable or beyond repair. This gives you time to consider your decision and finances, property distribution, and custody.
  • Living apart: With this option, you and your spouse no longer live under the same roof, although you are not legally separated. Remember that this could impact your property rights if you are the spouse who moved out of the marital home.
  • Permanent separation: If you are pursuing a permanent separation, you and your spouse live apart and have no intention of reconciling. This option also allows you to keep your assets and debts to yourself, although any assets accrued after your date of separation will only belong to the person who accrued them.
  • Legal separation: If you opt for a legal separation, you will no longer be considered married, but you are not legally divorced, which means you cannot remarry. Like a divorce, the court order will include all the separation details. You and your spouse will negotiate custody agreements, spousal support, and the distribution of marital property or allow the court to make those decisions if you cannot reach an agreement.

Why Should I Consider a Separation Over a Divorce?

Even if you and your spouse want to end your marriage legally, the following are some of the most common reasons why couples opt for a separation instead of a divorce:

  • To continue filing taxes jointly.
  • Religious reasons.
  • To keep existing health insurance.
  • The belief that it is in the children’s best interests.

What Is an Annulment?

A divorce terminates a marriage, and an annulment is a legal determination that the marriage never happened. However, like a divorce, an annulment allows both parties to remarry or enter into a domestic partnership with another person. An annulment is an option for people whose religion disapproves of divorce, prohibits individuals from remarrying after divorce, or will not allow people who have been divorced to get remarried in the church. In New Jersey, there are limited circumstances in which annulments are granted:

  • Incest: If both parties are too closely related by blood, the marriage may be annulled.
  • Duress: If the marriage was forced under the threat of violence against you or someone else, this is a basis for an annulment.
  • Underage: You must be 18 or older to get married in New Jersey.
  • Impotence: If a spouse intentionally conceals inability to consummate the marriage, is impotent, or is unable to have children, this is grounds for an annulment
  • Lack of capacity: If a party lacks the mental ability to consent to the marriage, either due to a mental illness or impairment from an intoxicating substance, this may justify an annulment.
  • Fraud or misrepresentation: If either spouse has been deceitful about information that would impact the marriage, this will likely justify an annulment. Examples include the intent to marry for immigration status, entering a marriage after becoming pregnant by another man or failing to disclose a serious substance abuse problem.

Does an Annulment Impact Alimony, Child Support, or Equitable Distribution?

Since an annulment nullifies the marriage as if it never occurred, there is no equitable distribution of assets in an annulment proceeding in New Jersey. That means that the court will not divide property that was acquired over the course of the marriage. The property will remain in the possession of whoever’s name is on the title. The court will divide the property if the marital home is jointly owned. However, an annulment proceeding may award child support, custody, visitation, and spousal support. A highly skilled divorce lawyer will assist you with this process, address any questions or concerns about the best legal course of action, and help you reach the best possible settlement outcome.

Our Paramus Divorce Lawyers at Torchin Martel Orr LLC Represent Clients Who Wish to End Their Marriage

If you and your spouse are seeking a divorce or an annulment, do not hesitate to contact our Paramus divorce lawyers at Torchin Martel Orr LLC. We understand how difficult this process can be, particularly if you have children and other complex issues that need to be resolved. Our dedicated legal team will thoroughly explain the legal options available to you. To schedule a confidential consultation, call 201-971-4866 or contact us online. Located in Paramus, New Jersey, we serve clients in Bergen County, Morris County, Essex County, Hudson County, and the surrounding towns in northern New Jersey.