The Difference Between Annulments, Divorce, and Legal Separation

2 people upset about divorce or breakup

A divorce isn’t the only way to end a marriage or separate in a legally recognized way. Learn more about the key differences between annulments, divorce, and legal separations in Oregon.

A Comparison of Methods for Ending a Marriage in Oregon

When it comes to ending a marriage, there are a few different options available for the residents of Oregon which are annulments, divorce, and legal separation. There are some important differences to be aware of if you’re planning to pursue one of these options. It is likely that not all options will be available to you given your particular circumstances.

Understanding Annulments

In an annulment, your marriage is voided as if it never happened. This is in stark contrast to a divorce where your marriage is terminated but you’re still recognized as having been previously married. For example, there is no division of property, support any anything else that you would typically see in a divorce as because the marriage is as if it didn’t occur. Very few couples actually qualify to for an annulment versus a divorce because you must meet specific criteria as defined by Oregon family law before filing a petition for annulment.

However, the primary difference between divorce and annulment is that with a divorce you were considered married in the eyes of the law and with an annulment you were not.

Because an annulment more or less erases a marriage from records, you’ll need a valid reason before pursuing one. A few ground to void marriage include:

  • One or both parties didn’t have sufficient understanding of what was happening.
  • When consent to marry was obtained by either force or fraud.
  • One or both of the parties was not of legal age to marry.
  • There may be others, but you need to discuss this with an experience family law attorney

These are not the only reasons a marriage could be voided under an annulment. Judges will handle these requests on a case-by-case basis, so it’s a good idea to work out a plan with your divorce lawyer before proceeding.

It should also be noted that while your marriage will be considered illegitimate, any children you have from the marriage will not be considered so. You may also want to determine what parent will have custody, establish a parenting plan and child support.

Asides from those key differences, an annulment is like a divorce in that your marriage is over and you’re able to legally remarry and continue with your life.

An Overview of Divorce

A divorce proceeding is a common way to end a marriage and this process is likely the one known to most people. In Oregon, a divorce and dissolution are two terms that are used interchangeably. With a divorce, your assets and property are divided between you and your former partner. If there are any children, custody will be determined, a parenting plan will either be agreed on by the parties, or the court will create one and child support will be determines. This is all part of the divorce process if you have children. However, the procedural can largely be avoided if divorcing couples can agree on the dissolution terms whether privately or through divorce mediation.

A divorce starts with a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage filed within the county you or your spouse currently reside.

A Look at Legal Separations

What are the advantages of legal separation of divorce? First, it’s important to know that a legal separation does not actually terminate the marriage in any way. With a legal separation, spouses remain married by law. However, your assets and debts are divided and provisions are made for the children, if any.

Legal separations are commonly performed when a couple may be unable or unwilling to divorce due to religious reasons. Separations also allow couples to retain health insurance benefits in some circumstances, though it is recommended to review your plan documentation to ensure this. Because separated couples are still legally married, they may also be eligible for certain tax benefits as well as certain social security benefits.

Therefore your General Judgment of Legal Separation will contain some of the same provisions as a divorce including spousal support, child support, a parenting plan, and division of property and assets.

The steps for legal separation are nearly identical to those of a divorce. A Petition begins each action and each action ends with the entry of a General Judgment either of Legal Separation or Dissolution. A legal separation can be either for a specific period of time or for an unlimited duration. You will want to talk to your family law attorney about what will be best for you given your individual circumstances.

Lastly, separations can be converted to a divorce at any time during or within two years after the court proceedings. This will not automatically be done. One of the parties must file a Motion with the court requesting that it be converted.

However, if you are granted a General Judgment of Legal Separation and you acquire new assets and/or debts after the separation is granted, then even if two years has not passed, it may be necessary to file a Petition for Divorce because there are now more issues for the court to determine. If more than two years have passed, then you have to file a Petition for Dissolution in order to get divorced. You will want to talk to a lawyer that specializes in family law to determine what is best for you.

Deciding on Which Option is Right for You

Whether you choose to pursue a divorce, annulment, or legal separation will ultimately dictate somewhat by the facts of your case as well as what decisions you make. This decision can have life-altering consequences so it’d be prudent to discuss this with a divorce attorney before deciding on how you wish to proceed.

Hobson / Oram Law

Hobson Oram Law