Separation, divorce, and annulment all seek to end a marriage in some way. Yet, each is uniquely different from the others in what they accomplish, how they are obtained, and their effects. Here’s what you need to know.
Separation: To separate means to move apart, but not necessarily to officially end things. Separation in Michigan can be a viable alternative to divorce if the parties are not willing to or interested in divorcing. There is a legal action called “separation maintenance” in which the couple divides up property, debts, establish child custody, and support, but remain married. This is an attractive option for some couples for religious reasons or possibly tax advantages.
The fact that the couple remains married can have downsides, however. For example, if one spouse takes on debt, the other spouse may still be responsible as the parties are still considered married. A separation using the separation maintenance action may be considered a “life event” in the eyes of life insurance and health insurance companies such that the non-policyholder spouse may be cut out of the policy. Thus, if a spouse receives health insurance through the employer of the other spouse, they may be dropped from coverage due to the separation. One of the stranger consequences is that any children born after the separation but while the parties are still married will be considered to be the children of the two parents, even if there is another father.
Annulment: An annulment is an action to essentially turn back time and make it as if the marriage never happened in the first place. Time travel is impossible, and the law is pretty lousy at erasing things, too, which explains why annulments are actually fairly difficult to get. Annulment in Michigan is usually only granted if there was something unfair or illegal about the marriage in the first place.
Grounds for annulment include the incompetence of a party to consent, one partner was still married to someone else at the time of the subsequent marriage, the spouses are close relatives, one spouse was too young to consent, or one spouse lied or otherwise fraudulently induced the other spouse into marriage. Annulments are absolutely not available if there are children from the marriage or property has been accumulated.
Annulments can make certain legal issues more difficult to untangle such as division of property or spousal support. If the marriage is treated as if it never happened, then it is a viable question as to whether a spouse would be entitled to support as they would in a divorce situation.
Divorce: The most familiar and popular method of ending a marriage is still divorce. The divorce process will determine adequate division of property, support, child custody, parenting, division of debt, and other issues with the added bonus that when it is concluded, both parties are free to marry again.
If you are facing a divorce, separation, or even annulment, it is incredibly empowering to have an experienced and compassionate attorney by your side through the process. Melissa Pearce & Associates, PLC can help. Our experienced Michigan family law attorneys are here to provide case-specific advice to you, and are here to talk whenever you’re ready. Give us a call today at (248) 676-8976!