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The differences between divorce, legal separation and annulment

You and your spouse choose to separate, but you do not make the decision lightly. You hope that ending your marriage through a legal procedure will prove best for you and your spouse's health and happiness. In Wisconsin, three types of legal divisions of marriages exist.

Perhaps you do not want to irrevocably divorce under law. You may even want to declare that your marriage never legally existed through the process of annulment. In any case of separation, you may wish to seek the expertise and advice of an experienced divorce attorney to help you decide which arrangement proves best for you and your spouse.

Wisconsin's relationship termination processes

The state of Wisconsin works to aid couples in ending their relationships through three procedures.

1. Divorce: The first and most common procedure is divorce. Divorces end marriages entirely. According to Wisconsin law, divorces solve issues regarding:

  • Property division
  • Spousal support
  • Child support
  • Custody
  • Physical placement

As Wisconsin recognizes only no-fault divorce proceedings, couples may not place blame on individual spouses for their marriage's demise. Each spouse will simply explain that their marriage is irretrievably broken, and they wish to divide assets and separate entirely.

Divorcing couples must wait 120 days to file divorce after separating, which begins after the spouses move to different households. This wait period ensures that the spouses think clearly regarding their decision to divorce.

2. Legal Separation: Legal separation, unlike divorce, does not terminate a marriage. Though the court decides all division elements including property and custody, the couple is still legally married, and neither spouse can remarry during this time.

Legal separation exists so that couples may choose to reconcile and continue their marriage. Some couples determine that they simply need time apart or the opportunity to try all aspects of divorce before determining that they want to terminate their marriage entirely. To file this type of separation, you must give a reason that you seek legal separation over divorce.

3. Annulment: An annulment is a procedure that, when finished, determines that a marriage never existed. Specific limitations arise when filing for a marriage annulment, and you want to ensure you follow all requirements to file this type of relationship-ending procedure.

You may file for the annulment of your marriage only if:

  • You or your spouse lacked capacity to legally consent to the marriage at the time. Usually fraud, duress, force, alcohol consumption or drug consumption may allow for annulment.
  • You or your spouse lacks capacity to perform sexual intercourse, and you or your spouse were not made aware of this at the time of marriage.
  • You or your spouse were 16 or 17 at the time of marriage and did not have consent of your parent or guardian.
  • Your marriage is illegal under Wisconsin law.

If you want to file to receive a granted divorce ending your marriage, want to legally separate but stay married under law or file an annulment to document that your marriage never existed, you want to hire an attorney. Divorces may prove messy with asset division and custody battles, while legal separations and annulments require specific procedure and reasons for their legal filing. You want an experienced individual guiding you throughout the emotional process.

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Bridge Law Office, LLC
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