While it’s true that falling in love and getting married is a romantic endeavor, a marriage is a legal contract. When a marriage ends, getting out of that contract also requires legal action. Here’s a look at the key legal processes by which a marriage is dissolved.
Divorce vs. Annulment
There are two ways to legally end a marriage – annulment and divorce. Divorces are far more common, and it’s what happens when the court acknowledges the marriage as valid and issues a divorce decree. After that, both parties return to single status and can legally remarry. Either party in a marriage can initiate a divorce, and since Arizona is a no-fault state in regards to divorce, no wrongdoing must be proven.
When an annulment takes place, the court views the marriage as never legally valid and it is cancelled. Having a marriage annulled means it never technically existed. Either party in a marriage can initiate an annulment, and the party initiating must prove the grounds to do so. The following is a list of common grounds for annulment:
- One of the parties was married to someone else.
- The parties are too closely related by blood.
- One of the parties was under the age of consent.
- One or both of the parties lacked the physical or mental capacity to get married, which includes being intoxicated.
- The parties failed to obtain a marriage license.
- One of the parties perpetrated a fraud to get the other party to consent to the marriage.
- One party used force (legally known as “duress”) to get the other party to agree to marriage.
- One of the parties misrepresented his or her religion.
Divorce vs. Legal Separation
In a legal separation, the parties stay married but live separately. A legal separation is a court order that mandates the rights and duties of a couple while they are still married, but living apart. In proceedings for legal separation, the court decides the following, much as it would in divorce proceedings:
- Separation maintenance, which addresses spousal and child support
- Child custody
- Child visitation
- Property division
When to Contact a Family Law Professional
The end of a marriage means the end of a legal contract, and both parties will be affected by it. If you are considering a divorce, speak to an experienced attorney right away to discuss the best options for your situation.