Written by Avvo Staff

3 alternatives to divorce

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If you're not sure if you want to get divorced, there are several alternatives to divorce that you can consider. These include separation, annulment, and counseling.

Legal separation

What is legal separation?

Legal separation won't end your marriage, but it will make it easier to live apart. It gives you a legal order on how to handle issues like finances and child custody while separated.

Who should consider legal separation?

There are several reasons you might want to pursue a legal separation, including:

  • Choosing to separate until you meet the state residency requirements for divorce.
  • Trying to live apart before committing to an annulment, a divorce, or a return to married life.
  • Opposition to divorce for religious reasons.

Remember that a separation doesn't end your marriage, and it won't allow you to marry someone else. It just provides a way for you to manage your finances, child custody, and other related issues.

What are the similarities and differences between separation and divorce?

Both separation and divorce require you to provide information on your income, taxes, and finances. Judges also rule on many of the same issues.

The biggest difference between legal separation and divorce is that separation can be temporary. It lasts until you either decide to get back together, or proceed with a divorce.

How long does a legal separation take?

Most legal separations take about 8 months to a year.

How much does a legal separation cost?

The cost of a separation is usually the same as a divorce. If you don't contest anything, a legal separation costs between $200 and $2,000. The more complicated your separation, the more costly it will be.

Can you separate on your own?

For your separation to be legally binding, you need to file paperwork with your local family court. However, most states have a way for you to separate without a lawyer.

What else should you know about separation?

Separation isn't an option in all states. But in states without separation options, you're usually allowed to file for temporary divorce orders that last until a final divorce decree is issued. These temporary divorce orders act similarly to a separation order.


What is an annulment?

Annulment is a process that makes it as if your marriage never legally existed.

Who should consider an annulment?

You may get an annulment if there are issues that existed before your marriage that now make your marriage legally invalid. Insanity, fraud, force, duress, impotency, underage marriage, and polygamy are all potential reasons for annulment.

What is the difference between an annulment and divorce?

Annulments are similar to divorces because the court issues orders on similar issues, including:

However, annulments are different than divorces in that you may not make any future claims on benefits like social security or worker's compensation. Annulment makes it as if your marriage never legally happened.

Note that while some religions also offer annulments, these annulments are not the same as legal annulments.

How long does an annulment take?

On average, legal annulments also take 8 months to a year to complete.

How much does it cost for an annulment?

Courts require you to prove the cause of an annulment. This requirement sometimes makes an annulment more difficult and costly than a divorce or separation. Annulments can cost anywhere to $500 to $5,000 or more.


What is counseling?

Counseling is when a married couple meets with a counselor, clergy member, or mental health professional. Couples often try counseling to see if their concerns can be addressed by a new perspective. Common causes for divorces, such as lack of intimacy, financial differences, and communication difficulties, can sometimes be successfully worked on with a therapist.

Who should consider counseling?

Counseling is a good option if you want to try to remain in your current marriage.

What is the difference between counseling and divorce?

Unlike divorce, you remain married throughout your counseling sessions. Your financial, childcare, and legal situations will also generally remain the same.

How long does counseling take?

Counseling can take as long as you like. Some couples go through a few sessions and know if their marriage will or won't work. Other couples may go to counseling for a year or more without making a decision.

But even if you find your marriage is no longer an option, your therapist can help you come to an agreement on how to proceed with a divorce or one of the alternatives. The more you can agree on before you end your marriage, the faster and cheaper the process will be.

How much does counseling cost?

Counseling costs between $100 and $300 per hour session, although some churches and community organizations provide free or low-cost counseling.

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