Separation, divorce or annulment: Which one should I choose?

In this article, we’ll be exploring what separation, divorce and annulment mean, as well as their differences, so that you can decide what may be the best course of action to take.

Ending a marriage can be a stressful and complicated process, so deciding whether a divorce, annulment or separation is the right choice for you can be tricky. With emotions running high, it may be difficult to have time to properly research the different ways you can legally separate.

In this article, we’ll be discussing each option, the considerations you’ll need to make, as well as the benefits and limitations of each. This way, you can get an idea of what option may be the most suitable for your needs, before booking an appointment with divorce, annulment or separation solicitors.


What is a legal separation?

A legal separation does not technically end a marriage as a divorce does, but instead enables a couple to live independently, while remaining married.

Due to the nature of a legal separation, you will not need to prove that your marriage has irrevocably broken down in court. Couples that decide to legally separate will need to attend a court order which will provide a framework for you and your spouse’s right and responsibilities.


Why do people legally separate?

For some couples, separating but not divorcing straight away can be more beneficial. In some circumstances, a separation agreement may seem like a less timely, and more cost-effective option than a divorce. Couples may also be tied down by parenting responsibilities, which may make divorcing too difficult for them.


What are the limitations?

A legal separation can be restrictive to both you and your spouse. You’ll have to still to work together when dealing with finances and arrangements, which may cause issues. The biggest downside is that you’re not allowed to remarry, as you’re still legally married.

Not doing so can lead to quarrels over household bills, possessions, how best to deal with joint assets and the best arrangements for any children involved. Whilst a couple may part as ‘friends’ initially and feel that they can trust each other, doubts might arise later.

A good divorce lawyer would be able to advise you on agreements that would provide clarity moving forward.

What is an annulment?

An annulment is a way to end a marriage by showing that it was never legally valid, or is defective. While a divorce can only be applied for after one year of marriage, an annulment can be requested within the first year of marriage.


What are the grounds for annulment?

To meet the criteria for an annulment, you must either show that the marriage was not legally valid or voidable. The reasons your marriage may not be legally valid include:

  • You or your spouse were already lawfully married or in a civil partnership at the time of the marriage.
  • You or your partner were underage at the time of the marriage.
  • You and your partner are too closely related.


Below are some examples that your marriage could be considered voidable.


  • Your marriage was not consummated.
  • Your partner was expecting someone else’s child when you married.
  • Your spouse had a sexually transmitted disease when you married.
  • Where you or your partner did not have the necessary mental capacity to properly consent to the marriage.


What are the potential benefits of annulment?


Getting an annulment may be financially beneficial, as you will not have to worry over property division. Instead, judges will typically assign assets back to their original owner, before the marriage took place.


Historically, there has been a lot of stigma around getting a divorce so, for some people, an annulment may be a preferable option. Some individuals in a marriage may have also encountered significant trauma, so to have it declared voidable may offer comfort and reassurance.


What is a divorce?



A divorce is a legal end to a marriage. In order to get a divorce, you will need to have been married for at least one year.


You used to also need to prove that your marriage had irrevocably broken down, as well as base the divorce on one of the following five reasons:


  • Separation for 2 years – with consent from your partner.
  • Separation for 5 years – no consent necessary.
  • Unreasonable behaviour – this can include things like financial mismanagement or domestic abuse.


Since the April 2022 No Fault Divorce law came into play, this is no longer the case.


Divorces are much more common than annulments and legal separations, as they’re far more accessible and less restrictive.


Deciding which course of action is the best for you…


Ending things with your partner can be a particularly scary and unnerving process. So, deciding whether a divorce, annulment or separation is the right choice for you can be difficult.


During this time, it’s important to put yourself first and make decisions based on what is going to help you through the process the most. To do so, set aside some time to properly research the different options available, and weigh up the pros and cons of each. From there on, you should be able to make a more informed decision on how to separate.


Please be advised that this article is for general informational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for advice from a trained legal professional. Be sure to consult a family lawyer/solicitor if you’re seeking advice on separation. We are not liable for risks or issues associated with using or acting upon the information on this site.

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