Legal Separation, Annulment & Divorce: What Are the Differences?

A married couple can split up in more ways than one. In fact, there are three different ways spouses can legally disassociate themselves from one another when they realize it’s time to part ways.

You’ve heard of divorce, legal separation, and annulments before – but have you ever given much thought to how exactly these are different from one another? Let’s take a look at each of them below to compare.

Legal Separation

A legal separation is not the official end of a marriage. Instead, this is a process where spouses disentangle their finances and other aspects of their married life but remain married.

Spouses choose legal separation for a variety of reasons. In many cases, they are considering divorce but want a “trial run” to see if living separate lives is what they really want. During a legal separation, issues such as property division, child custody, child support, and spousal support that would be decided in a divorce are determined. This makes it fairly easy to convert the agreement into a divorce decree.

Some religious beliefs forbid divorce, so a legal separation is a better way for spouses can go their separate ways in those cases. Also, spouses who have access to benefits or health insurance through each other can choose legal separation when they want to split up but keep those benefits.

Lastly, separated spouses can’t remarry other people unless they get an annulment or divorce.


Annulments are unique in that they technically don’t end a marriage. Instead, they declare that the marriage never existed at all.

That might sound like a headscratcher at first, but if a legal requirement wasn’t met for the marriage at the time of the wedding, then a marriage could be considered invalid. In this case, an annulment would officially scrub the marriage from the records.

Reasons why an annulment may be necessary include the following:

  • An individual was already legally married to someone else at the time of the wedding.
  • An individual entered the marriage through coercion or fraud.
  • An individual was underage and lacked parental consent at the time of the wedding.
  • An individual was under the influence of drugs or alcohol when they agreed to the marriage.


Divorce is the legal dissolution of a marriage. Once the judge delivers a final divorce decree, the parties in the divorce are free to remarry or enter into domestic partnerships with other people. A divorce will, of course, decide important matters such as property division, child custody, child support, and spousal support.

People who choose divorce are those who are sure they no longer wish to be married to their spouse and wish to be free to pursue another marriage in the future.

Do You Know What You Want to Do?

Whether you are seeking a legal separation, annulment, or divorce, our legal team at Claery & Hammond, LLP can provide the legal guidance and support you need.

For more information or if you have a question about this topic, contact us online today.