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What is the Difference Between Divorce, Legal Separation
and Annulment?

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Divorce

The most common way for couples to end their marriage or registered domestic partnership is to get it legally dissolved – generally called getting a divorce.

  • Once a divorce is final, each person is single. Each is legally free to marry again or to register a new domestic partnership.
  • Each person can ask the judge to order child support, spousal or partner support (alimony), child custody and visitation, division of property, domestic violence restraining orders and other orders.
  • The couple must meet California's residency requirements to get a divorce in this state.

Legal Separation

Sometimes, people don't want to get divorced but want to live apart and make their own decisions about money, property and parenting issues. Couples may choose to get legally separated instead of divorced for religious reasons, for example.

  • Unlike divorce, legal separation does not end a marriage. The people are not legally free to marry again or to register a new domestic partnership.
  • Like a divorce, each person may ask the judge to order child support, spousal or partner support (alimony), child custody and visitation orders, division of property, domestic violence restraining orders and other orders.
  • Unlike divorce, the couple does not have to meet California's residence requirements to get a legal separation.

Annulment

Rarely, a court will rule that a marriage or registered domestic partnership is not legally valid. A marriage or registered domestic partnership that is incestuous or bigamous, for example, is never valid. Other marriages or registered domestic partnerships can be declared "void" because of force, fraud, or physical or mental incapacity; or one of the spouses or partners was too young to legally marry or register a domestic partnership.

  • Like divorce, annulment ends a marriage or registered domestic partnership. Each person is legally free to marry again or to register a new domestic partnership.
  • Like a divorce, each person may ask the judge to order child support, spousal or partner support (or alimony), child custody and visitation orders, division of property, domestic violence restraining orders and other orders.
  • Unlike divorce, the couple does not have to meet California's residence requirements to get an annulment.

 

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