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Divorce vs. Annulment vs. Legal Separation

Steven L. Rotenberg, PLLC April 14, 2022

Divorce, legal separation, and annulment are options available to you to dissolve your marriage legally in Michigan. A divorce is a legal way to end a marriage, while a court decree of legal separation allows the spouses to live separate or apart while staying legally married. In contrast, an annulment declares the marriage null and void, just like it never occurred. An experienced Michigan family law attorney can explore your various marriage dissolution options and help you make an intelligent decision.Judge's Gavel and Rings on Wooden Background

Attorney Steven L. Rotenberg is dedicated to offering knowledgeable legal counsel, support, and advocacy to individuals and families in family law and divorce-related matters. He's available to discuss your unique circumstances and enlighten you about the differences between divorce, legal separation, and annulment. Additionally, Attorney Steven L. Rotenberg can help you understand the benefits and drawbacks of each marriage dissolution option and determine the best choice for you and your spouse. The firm proudly serves clients across Bingham Farms, Mount Clemens, Pontiac, Monroe, and the metro Detroit area.

Divorce in Michigan

Divorce can be described as the legal termination of a marriage. In order to file for divorce in Michigan, you or your spouse must have lived in the state for at least 180 days prior to filing. Also, either of you must have lived for at least 10 days in the county where you are filing.

Grounds for Divorce

In Michigan, divorce may be granted by merely stating that the marriage is irretrievably broken. This means that, according to Michigan law, "there has been a breakdown of the marriage relationship to the extent that the objects of matrimony have been destroyed, and there remains no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved."

Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce

Additionally, divorce in Michigan can be categorized into two kinds: contested or uncontested.

Uncontested Divorce: In an uncontested divorce, both spouses mutually agree on the key terms of the divorce settlement, including spousal support, asset division, child custody, child support, and visitation schedules. All agreed-upon divorce settlement terms will be properly documented and filed with the Michigan court for official approval.

Contested Divorce: Conversely, in a contested divorce, both spouses are unable to agree on one or more important divorce settlement terms. Resolving such divorce matters and relationship differences will need the intervention of the Michigan courts, where the judge will issue a final divorce order.

Annulment in Michigan

An annulment is a civil court process that declares a marriage null and void as if it never existed.

Grounds for Annulment

The acceptable reasons or grounds for annulment in Michigan include:

  • The consent of one spouse was obtained by force or fraud

  • Bigamy – one of the spouses was previously married to a living person

  • Underage – one spouse was below 16 years of age.

  • Physical incapacity and mental incapacity

  • Kinship – a man and woman who are related, including stepfamily relations

Legal Separation in Michigan

Legal separation in Michigan allows the couples to live separately and apart while they remain legally married. Unlike a divorce, a legal separation doesn't officially end the marriage. However, the spouses seeking separate maintenance must resolve the same divorce issues, provide a legally acceptable reason, and meet Michigan’s residency requirements. Both spouses will be required to work together to create a mutually acceptable separation agreement for their family. A knowledgeable divorce lawyer can review every aspect of your unique situation, determine the best option for you and your spouse, and work diligently with all parties involved to settle important terms peacefully and quickly.

Key Differences: Divorce,
Legal Separation, and Annulment

Essentially, here are the key differences between a divorce, legal separation, and annulment:

Grounds for Marital Dissolution

In a Michigan divorce or legal separation, you only have to state that your marriage is irretrievably broken as the reason for marriage dissolution. Conversely, in an annulment, you must state the specific reason why the marriage contract is invalid.

Residency Requirements

Getting a divorce or legal separation in Michigan requires either spouse to have lived in the state for at least 180 days prior to filing. Also, one of the spouses must have lived at least 10 days in the county where they are filing. Annulments have no residency requirements.

Marital Status

Legal separation or separate maintenance allows the spouses to retain their marital status. Conversely, a divorce or annulment restores the spouses to their previous legal status as single individuals. If you get a divorce or annulment, you are legally eligible to call yourself "single."


After obtaining a divorce or an annulment, you are allowed to remarry. However, if you seek a legal separation, you're neither married nor divorced. Therefore, you can't remarry.

Seek Experienced Guidance
from Steven L. Rotenberg, PLLC

Whether you are filing for divorce, legal separation, or annulment, dissolving your marriage in Michigan involves several complexities. It is important that you seek experienced guidance to understand the legal impact and emotional implications of each marital dissolution option. A knowledgeable family law attorney can walk you through your available legal options and help you determine the right choice for your relationship.

Contact Steven L. Rotenberg, PLLC, today to schedule a one-on-one consultation with a skilled divorce lawyer. Attorney Steven L. Rotenberg can offer you the best guidance and advice on how to dissolve your marriage seamlessly and help you move forward quickly. The firm proudly serves clients across Bingham Farms, Mount Clemens, Pontiac, Monroe, and the metro Detroit area.