Couple Arguing

Differences Between Legal Separation, Annulment, Divorce

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.  


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