Readers of this blog are likely going through a difficult time in their marriage or know someone else who is. Sadly, this is not unusual. Some statistics estimate that roughly half of the marriages in this country will end in divorce.

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However, it is important to recognize that divorce is not the only way to end a marriage. If you are currently assessing your options regarding divorce but are hesitant to file for a divorce, you should know that there are alternatives to consider.

In California, there are two ways to end a marriage without a divorce: annulment and legal separation. An annulment can be pursued if you can prove that your marriage is not legally valid. An annulment essentially treats the marriage as if it never happened. There are several legal reasons that will allow for a marriage to be annulled.

A marriage is never legally valid if the following are shown:

  • Bigamy – a spouse or domestic partner is already married or in registered domestic partnership with someone else.
  • Incestuous marriage – spouses are close blood relatives.

A marriage can be declared invalid if:

  • The person requesting an annulment was under the age of 18 at the time of the marriage.
  • One or both spouses were of “unsound mind”.
  • Fraud – this must be about something vital to the marriage, i.e. lying about ability to have children.
  • Physical incapacity – an inability to consummate the marriage which cannot be cured.
  • Force – either spouse consented to marriage by force.

If these do not apply in your case and you are unsure about a divorce you can pursue a legal separation. A legal separation allows you to keep your marital status intact. Many people seek legal separation over divorce for religious reasons, to remain on their spouse’s health insurance, or even to allow time to reconcile with their spouse. However, issues like property division and child support can be difficult to resolve since you are not divorcing your spouse.

Whether you ultimately pursue a divorce, annulment or separation, there are many legal considerations to make and requirements that must be fulfilled. Working with your attorney to make sure you understand and address these matters can be a crucial part of seeking the outcome you are hoping for.

Source: California Courts, “Divorce or Separation FAQs,” accessed on Jan. 20, 2016