Which One is Right for You?

Realizing that your marriage has ended is a difficult decision. In Massachusetts, you have two alternatives to an official divorce, and we at RFC take care to help our clients understand the benefits and disadvantages of each option they have available. Here are two alternatives to filing for divorce—and some of the things to know before choosing a path.

Legal Separation, or Separate Support in Massachusetts

Clients sometimes ask whether a “legal separation” is a viable option, oftentimes searching for a less permanent trial period to determine if their marriage is truly over. However, Massachusetts does not recognize “legal separation.” Instead, individuals in the Commonwealth have the option to file a Complaint for Separate Support if the client and his/her spouse are living apart due to a justifiable cause like abuse, adultery, or desertion. A Separate Support agreement is different from divorce in that it will not end the marriage, but will merely provide for a spouse’s financial support while the parties are living separate and apart.

While a Separate Support agreement may be an ideal situation for some, it is typically not the most ideal method of moving a divorce forward. After receiving an Order or Judgment for Separate Support, an individual will need to essentially start over and go through a similar process to obtain a permanent divorce. Further, there are no protections relating to property rights in a Separate Support action, and the length of marriage continues, which could impact alimony calculations if and when the couple gets a divorce.

Filing for divorce is not permanent until the case goes to Judgment; the parties may reconcile and dismiss the Divorce Complaint at any time prior to Judgment.

Annulment

A Complaint for Annulment is a request that the Court find your marriage was never legal. Annulments are not common in Massachusetts and only apply in limited circumstances. To grant an annulment, the Court must determine that your marriage is either “void,” or “voidable.” Annulments are not quicker nor easier than filing for divorce.

A marriage can be deemed ‘void’ if:

  1. You were already married to someone else when you got married; or
  2. You marry a close relative, either by blood or marriage.

Additionally, sometimes a marriage may be deemed “voidable,” for the following reasons, although not guaranteed:

  1. One of the spouses did not have the mental capacity to consent to marriage at the time
  2. One of the spouses is not physically capable of sexual intercourse
  3. One of the spouses was not old enough to get married
  4. There was fraud involved in initiating the marriage.

While it is a personal, and often times very difficult decision to file for divorce, unfortunately the Separate Support/annulment processes are not any less complicated options. Typically, divorce is the only means to properly uncouple yourself from your spouse. Whatever your circumstances, you should speak with counsel prior to filing any Complaint to ensure that you fully understand your options. Questions about how to proceed? Our attorneys at Ryan Faenza Carey are always available for consultation. Contact us today.