The Difference Between Separation, Divorce and Annulment

When martial problems lead to a situation where the relationship seems beyond repair, many couples start to think about the legal measures they can take to dissolve their marital bond. At this point, some individuals may decide that divorce is the only solution they are willing to consider and pursue, while others may not be ready to take that serious of a step. Some may still be wondering if, given their unique circumstances, there is yet another way to terminate their marriage.

If your marriage has come to that point and you’re thinking about ending it, here’s what you need to know about termination options you have available.


Separation is just that – a physical separation between the couple. When a couple decides to separate, it doesn’t mean that their marriage is terminated. In fact, the legal status of their relationship does not change at all. However, a separated couple is one that no longer lives together.

Unlike other states, Florida does not provide any legal means to formally recognize separation. This also means that a separated couple cannot have the court help them make and enforce some important issues troubled couples face such as child custody or the division of assets. However, after separation, in some circumstances, one of the spouses may be entitled to pursue child support or alimony.


Divorce is the formal process to legally end and dissolve a marital bond. Through the divorce process, a couple can reach an agreement with regards to how their property and assets should be divided, who gets custody of children, and whether one party will pay the other spousal or child support. Since divorce proceedings are supervised by the court, many of these issues are regulated not only by the final divorce agreement but also by a court order that can be enforced by appropriate enforcement authorities. Obtaining a divorce allows both parties to legally enter into a new marriage – an option that’s not available for couples who decide to separate.

In Florida, there are three basic kinds of divorce: simplified, uncontested, and contested. A simplified divorce can be pursued when a couple doesn’t have children and aren’t tied together by joint assets, debts, or other liabilities. In an uncontested divorce, on the other hand, such issues are present and must be legally regulated by the means of a divorce agreement; however, both spouses agree on how these issues should be resolved. A contested divorce means that the couple does not agree on key issues such as division of assets or child custody and need to work out an agreement with the help of a judge and, often, their respective attorneys.


An annulment doesn’t simply put an end to a marriage. Rather, an annulment is a legal recognition that the marital bond wasn’t validly established in the first place. Annulment is tantamount to obtaining a proof that marriage, from the legal perspective, has never occurred. It is not easy nor always possible to obtain an annulment. Some of the circumstances in which one or both of the spouses may pursue this option are:

  • Marriage was procured by deceit or fraud
  • Marriage is bigamous or incestuous
  • One of the spouses entered the marriage underage and without the consent of a parent or a legal guardian
  • One of the spouses didn’t have the mental capacity to enter a marriage
  • One of the spouses entered the marriage under duress

Deciding whether or not to separate or end a marriage is not an easy decision, but the Law Office of Joseph Cerino can help with any questions or concerns you may have and offer assistance with the termination options you ave available.

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The law office of Joseph Cerino handles all matters of litigation, concentrating in family law including divorce, custody, child support, paternity, alimony, property division and domestic violence, as well as, criminal defense and appeals in Southwest Florida.

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