A divorce is the legal dismantling of a valid marriage. Valid marriages are marriages that comply with state laws regarding who may marry whom, the circumstances under which individuals may marry, and the processes they must complete in order to be married. When a marriage is not valid, the couple has another option: annulment. While a divorce ends a marriage, an annulment recognizes that no legal marriage existed in the first place, essentially reverting the couple to their pre-married lives. A separation, on the other hand, is a decision between a married couple to live separately. Though the couple remains legally married in this scenario, they maintain separate residences and may obtain court orders for child support, child custody, and spousal maintenance.
A Separated Couple is Still Legally Married
Some states recognize legal separation, the legal process of dividing a couple’s assets and creating support orders for their children and in some cases, the lesser earning spouse. New Jersey is not one of these states.
A separated couple does not have to go through the process of obtaining a legal separation order. They may simply choose to live apart, sometimes to determine if divorce is the right choice for them and sometimes permanently. Typically, assets accrued after the couple has received a legal separation order are considered separate assets, which means they are not subject to division between the partners if they choose to divorce later.
It is important to remember that when a couple is separated, they are still legally married. This means that neither partner may remarry until they finalize a divorce.
An Annulment Voids a Marriage
When a couple completes an annulment, they are no longer married. In fact, they were never legally married, but there are certain circumstances under which an invalid marriage may become valid if the couple does not annul it within a specific period of time.
There are many reasons why a marriage could be invalid. A few examples are:
One or both of the parties were legally married to others when the marriage was performed
One or both of the spouses misrepresented themselves, leading the other to enter the marriage under false pretenses. An individual might have lied about their age, their criminal history, their substance addiction, or their health, all of which can be grounds for an annulment
One or both of the partners was underage and did not have parental permission to marry when the marriage was performed
One of the spouses cannot or will not engage in sexual intercourse with the other. This is not the same as being infertile; an inability to conceive children is not a valid reason for an annulment
If the couple had children during the marriage, the court will develop custody and child support orders. If the couple has marital assets, these will be divided as if the couple was divorcing.
South Jersey Divorce Lawyers at Kearney & Martone, P.C. Represent Clients Working through Separations, Divorces, and AnnulmentsSometimes, it is best to speak with an experienced divorce lawyer about all your options for ending your marriage before committing to a divorce. Complete our online contact form or call 856-547-7733 to schedule your initial consultation with our team of South Jersey divorce lawyers at Kearney & Martone, P.C. We are located in Haddon Heights, New Jersey, and we serve clients from throughout South Jersey, including Burlington County, Camden County, and Gloucester County.