Options for ending a union: Divorce, separation and annulment

In California, couples looking to end their union have options: annulment, divorce or legal separation. Each choice involves unique considerations, especially regarding asset division, child custody, spousal support and other marital issues. As such, it might be beneficial for couples not to rush into selecting a method. It’s essential to understand the specifics of each option, as this knowledge can guide them to the most suitable path for their situation.

Divorce or dissolution

Dissolution, or divorce, officially ends a marriage or domestic partnership and resolves critical marital issues. If both parties agree on these matters, a judge’s decision isn’t necessary, but the agreement still needs court approval. The court usually approves the agreement if it’s in the children’s best interests and is fair to both parties. If an agreement isn’t possible, a judge will decide on these disputes.

Legal separation

Legal separation doesn’t terminate a marriage or domestic partnership and doesn’t have a residency requirement. However, it resolves issues similar to divorce, such as division of property, child custody and financial support . Despite the similarity, it’s important to remember that legal separation keeps the marriage legal. If either party later wants a divorce, or both parties agree to it, they’ll need to start a new family law case, as legal separation doesn’t automatically transition into a divorce.

Annulment or nullity

Annulment, or nullity, invalidates a marriage or domestic partnership that began under false pretenses. If a judge grants an annulment, it’s as if the marriage never existed. However, a valid legal reason for the marriage’s initial invalidity is necessary. Without that, the court won’t grant an annulment. Moreover, it’s important to note that in annulment cases, the court handles matters of property division or spousal support differently than divorce or legal separation cases.

Each option carries different implications, and no two couples’ situations are identical—variables such as finances, the number of children and living conditions may come into play. So, couples must consider these elements first. After doing so, they then can conclude what best aligns with their individual needs and circumstances.

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