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Difference between Divorce, Annulment, and Legal Separation

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Many people get confused about the differences between the legal actions that you can take concerning your marriage relationship.  Although divorce is the most common course to take, it is not the only option, and it may not be the best fit for everyone’s situation. Annulment and legal separation are less common and apply to a more specific set of circumstances.


A divorce, in the most simple terms, ends a marriage relationship. In fact, it ends all legal relationships between the spouses, except for those that are specifically outlined by the court. These relationships can include agreements about child custody, alimony, or division of property. There are many reasons to file for a divorce that are recognized by Utah courts, including “irreconcilable differences.”  


Getting an annulment is different from a divorce because it doesn’t just end a marriage, it legally says that the marriage never happened. A court only orders an annulment for limited situations. Some examples of situations that qualify for an annulment are if one spouse was already married, one spouse was underage, or the spouses were closely related to each other. Other court recognized reasons include fraud and misrepresentation. Although the annulment means the marriage didn’t exist, there can still be agreements about child custody and property division. These will be ordered by the court.

Legal Separation

In Utah, this is referred to as “Separate Maintenance.” It does not end a marriage, but provides for a situation in which to spouses are living separately for one reason or another. It includes petitioning the court for alimony, child custody, property division, or a similar legal action without filing for a divorce. This type of action is appropriate in circumstances where one spouse has been deserted by the other, is not receiving support from the other or through no fault of his or her own, a spouse is living separately from the other. If the two spouses show reconciliation, the court order ends.

No matter your situation, the Huntsman Firm in St. George, Utah, is here to help you with all of your family law needs. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with one of our associates.