Divorce, Separation, or Annulment?

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DIVORCE is by far the most common way people alter their marital situation when they no longer wish to live together. Divorce “dissolves” the marriage and makes the former husband and wife single people again. As part of the divorce, every issue related to the marriage is settled or specifically “reserved” for later decision by the Court. Any property is divided, as are debts. If there are children, the custody, visitation, and child support issues are settled. When appropriate, alimony may be established permanently or for some period of time. Other issues, such as life or health insurance policies may be covered.

A LEGAL SEPARATION is like a divorce in that similar issues are settled.  But when the separation is granted the parties remain married.  They cannot marry anyone else. Also, the property distribution is not completely final. As in divorce, issues of property, children, and other matters may arise. If a person with a legal separation wants a divorce, he or she must start a new action. For this reason legal separations are uncommon in Minnesota. However, many people decide to separate for a period of time without going through a formal legal separation. This is not illegal, but it does leave unanswered questions as to who is entitled to property, who is responsible for debts during the separation and the terms of custody and child support. It also prevents remarriage.

ANNULMENTS are extremely uncommon and appropriate only when there is a defect in the circumstances of the marriage or the understanding of the parties, or when the husband or wife lacks the legal capacity to married. Annulments can be used in such cases as “shotgun” weddings, under-age marriages, marriages done under the influence of drugs or alcohol and marriages where one party cannot have sex and the other does not know it. Even if the parties decide ten minutes after the ceremony that they hate each other, the marriage cannot be ended by annulment unless one of these special circumstances occurred. An annulment may also become impossible because too much time has passed or the parties have acquiesced to the marriage.”

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