If your relationship with your partner has ended, you might not be sure if a divorce applies to your situation. On this page, I will discuss some special circumstances in which you might seek alternatives to divorce. For more information on these special circumstances and others, please contact my office. I can review your situation and help you make the right decision.

Common Law Marriage and Divorce

Common law marriage is an informal form of marriage. Couples that have an informal marriage do not obtain a marriage license. Instead, they live together for a significant period of time and have the intention to marry. Without a license or a wedding, these couples can be considered married in some states because they act like they are married by living together and caring for one another. Not every state recognizes common law marriage as a legal form of law. The only states that allow this type of marriage are:

  • Alabama
  • Colorado
  • The District of Columbia
  • Georgia (for marriages before 1/1/1997)
  • Idaho (for marriages before 1/1/1996)
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire (for inheritance purposes)
  • Ohio (for marriages before 10/10/1991)
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Texas

Couples are considered married by common law in these states if they act like they are married, for instance by wearing wedding rings, using the same last name, referring to each other as “husband” and “wife”, and filing joint tax returns. Even in states that do not allow common law marriages, these couples will get considered married. This is because the marriage is valid in the state that it occurred in, and all other states must recognize valid marriages of another state. This qualifies as a special circumstance.

Common Law Divorce

While the process of becoming informally married is very different than a traditional marriage, the divorce process is the same for both types of marriage. The rights and obligations present in a common law marriage are the same as those for a traditional marriage. As a result, ending the marriage means undergoing the traditional divorce process. You will have to file the procedures for divorce in the state that you live in. The divorce process will vary based on where you live. However, because many states do not allow common law marriage, if you live in one of these states, you won’t have to worry about filing for divorce, since your state will never recognize your marriage as legal in the first place.

If you are not sure if you are legally married as a result of common law marriage in your state, and you want to get a divorce, you should discuss your situation with a divorce lawyer.

Marriage Annulment

Divorce and annulment have similarities, however, they are also two different procedures that can mean slightly different things. Both are court proceedings that dissolve a marriage, however, a divorce implies that the marriage has simply ended, while an annulment treats the marriage like it never happened. Because divorce can carry a negative stigma, some people prefer to get their marriages annulled. If this is the case, a civil annulment is applied for. However, some people want to get an annulment because it makes it easier to remarry within the church if the marriage is not recognized. If this is the case, you should get a religious annulment.

Marriage Annulment Reasons

If you want to get a civil annulment, there are several grounds that you can file for an annulment on. These vary slightly by state, so you should hire a divorce attorney to help you understand the exact laws and procedures in your state. However, getting an annulment will generally require at least one of the following reasons. The first reason to get a civil annulment is fraud or misrepresentation. If your spouse knowingly lied to you about something like his or her ability to have children, a previous and existing marriage, or lying about reaching the age of consent, these are grounds for an annulment.

Another reason to get an annulment is the ability or refusal to consummate the marriage. If your marriage is never consummated, for whatever reason, you will have grounds for an annulment.

Concealment is another grounds for an annulment. If your spouse conceals an addiction to drugs or alcohol, children from another relationship, a sexually transmitted disease, a felony conviction, or impotency, you might be able to get an annulment.

The final grounds for an annulment is a misunderstanding, such as if one spouse wants to have children and the other does not. This is the most open-ended of the reasons for an annulment, so you might want to talk to a lawyer about your specific circumstances and the likelihood of making a case for an annulment.

Religious Annulment

Another type of special circumstances is the religious annulment. This occurs within the Roman Catholic Church. If a couple gets a civil annulment, they will be eligible to obtain a religious annulment as well. This will make it easier for one or both people to remarry within the Catholic Church or any other place. However, just because you are granted a civil annulment does not mean that you will automatically get a religious one.

There are different grounds for religious annulment than a civil one. Generally, annulments take place after a short period of time. Usually, people who are married get an annulment within the first few weeks or months of their time together, meaning that there are not many assets to divide among them. Annulments that occur when the marriage is long term can be more difficult, as there will be assets to divide. For this reason, you should contact a divorce attorney to help you through the annulment process. I can make sure that you get what you are entitled to in the annulment.

For more information on special circumstances, contact my office.