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Divorce vs. Annulment vs. Legal Separation

Oleen Law Firm May 22, 2022

When a marriage is failing, many people struggle with how to deal with it. They may seek counseling, but that often does not solve the problems between the couple. Divorce is the most prevalent solution, but it is not the only path you can take in Kansas.

Divorce, annulment, and legal separation are three options you have to address a failing marriage. You may be wondering what the difference between them is, or when are they an option for you. Which one is best for you depends on your specific circumstances, but it may be worth exploring all three before choosing which one you file.

At Oleen Law Firm, we help clients from Manhattan and Junction City, Kansas understand their options for ending a marriage as they know it. We get to know them, listen to their stories, and provide the information they need to make an informed choice about the next chapter in their lives.

If you are struggling with your marriage, you should understand the basic differences between divorce, annulment, and legal separation.

Divorce in Kansas

A divorce ends a marriage, returning the spouses to their single lives. Kansas is a no-fault divorce state, so there is no need to express specific reasons, or “grounds” for divorce. A couple can merely agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken. However, there is also the option to file a fault-based divorce based on grounds of one person’s failure to perform marital duties, including sexual interaction, or based on mental incapacity or mental illness.

The person who files for divorce is the petitioner. The person served with divorce papers is the respondent. So long as you or your spouse has lived in Kansas for at least 60 days, you can file in the appropriate Kansas county court.

Ending the marriage requires court-approved agreements regarding the division of marital assets and debt, child custody, parenting plans, child support, and spousal support. If you and your spouse can agree to these terms, the divorce is uncontested, and the court need only approve the terms you have worked out. If you cannot agree, the divorce is contested, and the court will make the final decision regarding unresolved issues.

Annulment in Kansas

If an annulment is granted, it recognizes that the marriage was never valid and therefore, you were never legally married. The petitioner will need to appear before the court to attest to any of the following grounds for annulment:

  • The marriage is a joke or a sham;

  • You were coerced into the marriage;

  • The spouse committed fraud by hiding or lying about something critical to the union;

  • The marriage was a mistake because had you known certain things, you would not have wed;

  • You were under age 18 at the time of the marriage and did not have parental or the court’s permission to marry;

  • You are closely related to your spouse by blood, which makes the union incestuous;

  • You did not know your spouse was impotent;

  • Your spouse was married at the time you wed; or,

  • You or your spouse was incapable of understanding you were getting married.

As with divorce, property and debts need to be divided, and issues regarding child custody and visitation must be decided. The court may also order spousal support in some cases. At the end of the process, you can legally state that you were never married. Children of the union, however, are still considered “legitimate,” and both parents are legally responsible for providing emotional and financial support.

Kansas Legal Separation

Although some couples may attempt a trial separation, living apart for a time, this arrangement provides no legal protection for either of you. A legal separation, also referred to as “separate maintenance” in Kansas, does.

Much of the process of legal separation is the same as divorce. Marital property is divided, child custody is awarded, parenting plans are established, and child support and perhaps spousal support are awarded. The court approves a formal separation agreement covering all these issues. At the end of the process, however, you are still married. Only with divorce is the marriage dissolved.

A legal separation may provide you with time to decide if a divorce is really what you want. There are also other reasons a couple may choose legal separation over divorce, including:

  • They have the ability to receive health insurance, retirement, and other benefits;

  • They have a moral or religious objection to divorce;

  • They want to avoid putting their children through the trauma of divorce; or,

  • They want to lead separate lives while married but have the legal protections not afforded by informal separation.

The petitioner for legal separation may pursue it based on no-fault or on either of the grounds Kansas recognizes for a fault divorce. The court must approve all terms of the separate maintenance agreement. If the couple decides to reconcile, they are still married. If not, they can pursue divorce at any time.

How Oleen Law Firm Can Help

Although you can pursue any of these options without the assistance of a family law attorney, it is wise not to. Despite their differences, divorce, annulment, and legal separation are all legal actions requiring the involvement of the court. A divorce attorney in Kansas can help you sort through all the issues, weigh your options, and help you navigate the process of whatever option you choose.

No one else will be your advocate and yours alone. At Oleen Law Firm, we will be your fiercest advocates, regardless of whether your uncoupling is amicable or contentious. You always benefit from experienced and compassionate legal advice.

If you are considering your options to address a failing marriage in or around Manhattan, Kansas, let us help. Call us at Oleen Law Firm today to discuss your tomorrow.